The me I see in 10 years

I just felt like posting about how great it is to still be alcohol free after 305 days.  When I first stopped drinking, it was really difficult.  It was that difficulty that actually convinced me that I needed to make this a permanent change.   I needed to get to the place where instead of saying “I’m giving  up alcohol for a while,” I could say “I don’t drink anymore.”  There is a huge difference between those two statements.  In the first, there’s an implication that it’s just something you’re trying out. If you fail,  there was not as much expectation.  To get to the place where you tell others that you are no longer a drinker is a risk.  And yet, that’s where I knew I had to go.   After about 60 days or so, I knew I felt much better without it, so I decided to make the jump from casual quitter to complete abstainer.

A big part of how I made that jump is by picturing my future.  Any time I get a passing inkling that a drink would be nice (to de-stress, or just tune out for a while), I think about what drinking me looks like in 10-15 years.  Drinking me in 10 years is 75 lbs overweight, no longer able to play tennis or walk more than 500 feet without resting.   Drinking me stays home and watches a lot of TV, and waits for the day she can retire from her job so she can drink with complete abandon, as the job was the only thing keeping her somewhat under control.  She’s depressed and unhappy and if her wife hasn’t left by now, she is also unhappy and longs for the days when they used to go do things together and have fun.  Now she just watches drinking me become a shell of herself, no longer doing the things she loved, and no longer living the life she imagined when they first met.

Non-drinking me kicks ass.  She  is running 5k’s regularly, and is training for a half-marathon.  She is not only still playing tennis, but beating the 20-somethings in singles.  She and her wife went to Europe last year and did a 50 mile hiking tour that people half her age couldn’t do.  They went to Wimbledon and plan to go to Australia to catch the Australian Open in a couple of years.  While there, they will find all kind of fun activities and tours to do.

Non-drinking me is active and looks for fun things to do, while drinking me just waits all day until it’s time to drink  because that’s all there really is.

Every day, I choose non-drinking me, because that looks pretty cool.   I don’t want to work my ass off to retire and then not have energy to do all the fun stuff I haven’t done yet.   If that isn’t a valid reason to not drink, I don’t know what is!

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Day 300

Today  is day 300.  I have been working on getting more exercise and losing some weight, and things are going very well.   It’s amazing how much easier losing weight is without budgeting all those calories for wine!   I am down about 9 lbs, and shooting for 21 more by Christmas.  I’m finding that without the alcohol in my life, I feel much more able to cope with life.  I no longer feel like the next big, difficult thing will be the end of me.  When my mom was sick about 3 1/2 years ago was when my drinking became a problem.  I drank over the pain and fear.   After she died, and time passed, and I began to regain my footing, I really became afraid the next big thing might destroy me.   So 300 days ago, I decided to cut alcohol out of my life.  It no longer felt good to me.  I had to drink more than I knew was healthy to just to get that buzz, and even then, the buzz was so short-lived, I was starting to put a lot of thought into pacing my drinking in order to maintain it.  It was very unhealthy.  Now, 300 days later, I have very much enjoyed my long weekend with no booze.  I felt a little pang when we went to dinner before the fireworks the other night.  We went to a Mexican place, and people were being loud around us.  People were drinking lots of margaritas, enjoying their long weekends with a few drinks, just the way I would have not that long ago.  I found myself thinking that a buzz would be nice to take the edge off being in this place with these loud people.  But I was fine with my diet coke and my food…it was just a passing thought, not even a craving, really.   I never knew what I was missing when I was drinking away my long weekends.  I definitely enjoy my down time a lot more than I ever used to.

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Emotions flowing – big day at the Supreme Court

I’m writing today because I have a lot of feelings going on about today’s Supreme Court activity.  Today, they heard arguments in a case that will decide the trajectory and timbre of the rest of my life.  Today was the historic hearing of arguments in the case that will decide whether or not marriage equality will become the law of the land.  This is important to me because I’ve been with my partner for more than 12 years, and I’d really like to marry her, but I never wanted to go to another state to do that.  Plus, even if we did go to another state, our home state doesn’t recognize it (yet.)

It’s not just about the piece of paper…I don’t need that to tell anyone that I’m committed to my partner for the rest  of my life.  But it would be nice to have access to the same language other people use for that person in their life.    Words matter, and I want to be able to call her my wife, because that’s who she is.  She’s not my “girlfriend” or  “lesbian lover” (omg, really?).   She’s the most important person in my life.  It means something to be able to use the same term any other person with a female spouse would use.  Wife.

All my life, I’ve struggled with being different.  When I was growing up in the late 70’s, “lezzie” and “faggot” were insults, and I always knew that if anyone found out that I might like girls, I might as well cease to exist.  So I kept it to myself for many years.  I even sought to rid myself of the “demons” when I was in college and got involved with a church group that believed you could “pray away” being gay.   I even subjected myself to an “exorcism” performed by a woman from the church who told me I was possessed by demons and that was what was causing my homosexuality.  I hated myself so much that I believed there were actual DEMONS inside me.  How fucked up is that??

I don’t talk often about that chapter in my life, because I am embarrassed by it.  I actually was willing to believe in a God who would make someone like this and then torture them.  I have since learned to be comfortable with who I am, and I’ve built a very good life.  But the memories and shame of my past experiences around when people found out I was gay…it’s almost reflexive, the self-loathing and shame that still surfaces.  In a lot of ways, my drinking was an attempt to drown that out, along with many other things.  It’s no wonder that LGBT people have much higher than normal rates of substance abuse in this country.

So today, as I was listening to the arguments for and against my right to marry my love of 12 years, I was taken by the idea that these lawyers were batting around one of the most important things in my life as if it was a soccer ball.  This isn’t about politics, or some “gay agenda.”  It’s about real people who have real hardships because they are not allowed by law to marry.  If you don’t know of all the rights and privileges afforded to you by your state and Federal government in your marriage, I encourage you to read up on it.  Financial security, ability to make life-altering medical decisions in a hospital for your spouse, adoption of the spouse’s kids…it goes on and on.  All the rights people take for granted, many would like to see me not have, just because maybe they don’t understand why it’s important.  Or maybe they believe that God disapproves.  And in that case, it’s pointless to argue, because you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.  All I can do is be true to myself, and try not to let the fact that lawyers are kicking my life around like a football in some big courtroom far away get to me.

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Day 200 yesterday

Yesterday was day 200. It’s the “100-day challenge” times 2. I am feeling much more comfortable with my “non-drinker” status. I have gotten to the place where in my mind, I say “I’m a non-drinker” or “I don’t drink” and it’s becoming more of a reality. I don’t think about drinking much at all unless I have a really bad day.  And even then, I’m able to think through the urge and it passes pretty quickly.

I am much happier without the booze in general.  My anxiety levels are much better.  I used to carry around this low-grade constant state of anxiety and that’s much improved now.  I still  get worked up into an anxious state when bad things happen, but I’m learning how to cope with that.  I may not be able to stop the anxiety, but I can deal with it without drinking.

I’m finding joy in all those moments I wouldn’t have had when I was drinking.  Like this morning, I was sitting with H in the kitchen having breakfast, and we were joking about this athletic-wear catalog that has captions below all the photos of the athletic models ostensibly in various stages of their workout.  One of the photos was two women in spandex capris and tank tops, smiling broadly at each other, and the caption was “My jump rope broke so I just kept jumping without it so I could finish my workout!”  That was funny enough to me, but then H started acting out what that would look like.  I laughed so hard I snorted!

It’s a moment I likely would not have had if I was still drinking.  Normally on a Saturday morning, I’d be feeling foggy from the 2 or 3 stiff margaritas from Friday night.  Friday night was always a green light to numb out.  And I would always wake up feeling groggy and a little nauseous.

I was thinking yesterday of all the damage I would have done to my body over the last 200 days if I had not stopped.  I am not where I want to be with my weight, but overall, I feel much better than before.   Anyone who is struggling with the first days of sobriety, know that it does get better, and there is a very tangible upside, if you look for it and embrace it.



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Digging in the Dirt

I have learned in the last few days that I don’t know how to deal with feeling sad. When I’m sad, I feel like the world is ending and I’ll never feel better. It’s an all-consuming thing. I seem to have a really low tolerance for emotional pain of any sort. I think this is a really big part of why my drinking became a problem. At first, it was just an occasional thing, but at some point, I started using it to stop these awful feelings. I might have even lowered my pain tolerance by self-medicating all these years.

I did have thoughts of drinking, but I knew it would only make things worse. On top of everything else, I would have blown over 6 months of sobriety. No way I was going to do that. If I had been in my first few weeks of sobriety, I don’t know how it would have gone. I am thankful that I have enough sober time that it prevents me from turning to alcohol when I am in emotional pain. Now that I’m on the other side of this funk, I can see clearly that it was a lesson. It was a lesson that no matter how bad I feel, it’s temporary. And without pain, you can’t be as grateful for the joy. It’s just life.

The other thing I realized yesterday is that I am a normal, emotional human being. All my life, I have been surrounded by emotionally “constipated” people. My family, and probably to some extent, I chose friends who were superficial and didn’t share feelings. I think because of that, I have always felt “crazy.” Like everyone else is always fine, no one feels sad or lonely…except me. Even my partner is so even-keeled it’s easy to think that she is just always fine and never feels this way. She’s just not outwardly emotional. And I think that all this time, I have suppressed my emotions because 1.) I didn’t think anyone understood them, and 2.) because I didn’t think anyone cared. Given my upbringing, I had good reason to believe these things, but these beliefs no longer serve a useful function in my life. It all contributed to the reasons why I drank.

In this archaeological dig that my sobriety has become, I am unearthing bits and pieces…the bones and pottery shards that are artifacts of who I really am underneath. And over the last few days, I have learned that I am a sensitive, emotional person, and I shouldn’t be ashamed of it. It’s part of who I am, and I’ve been trying to drink it away for a long time.

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I had my freakout over my grandmother’s situation on Saturday, and I thought I was doing better on Sunday, but yesterday and today, I just feel this awful sense that I’m alone and no one would ever understand how I feel right now.  I know it probably has something to do with my grandma’s dementia and the fact that she’s declining.  A lot of it has to do with this feeling that the Universe is a really bad place if it allows things like this to happen to her.  I feel alone and scared in a bad Universe full of people are looking to screw you over when you’re the most vulnerable, like my grandma.  I feel so sad and awful and there’s work to do and I can’t get myself together…I don’t like feeling this way.

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Wake Up and Smell the Catastrophe (It’s all in my head)

I had a bump in the road yesterday and had a giant, poor-me pity party which made me question why I’m doing all this sobriety stuff.  I won’t get into the details, but it’s about my 91 year old grandmother with dementia and some financial stuff that I’m handling.  The guilt and fear and just the grief that she’s slowly slipping away from me…sometimes it’s just too much to bear.   I listened to the voicemail from my grandmother’s caretaker about what’s happening, I went into my closet, shut the door and lost my shit.  I imagined her being thrown out of her condo, forced into a nursing home, and worst of all, her being angry with me…I can’t bear the thought of her being angry with me.  She’s the person who has always been in my corner.  She was more of a mother to me than my own mother was.   It’s just been so hard watching her decline.

I started beating myself up for not being there for her, 700 miles away, and for not taking care of things the way I should have.  I also beat myself up for being such a weak idiot that I’m sitting on the floor in a closet like a child.  I imagined all the worst things happening.  I thought about drinking, heavily and hard, to numb this feeling of panic that was overtaking me.

I have a way of turning normal-sized problems into huge ones in my head.  I’m a catastrophizer of the worst kind.  I go to the worst, scariest places in my mind and I can’t seem to stop it from happening.  At this point, all I can do is feel the wave of fear and dread pummel me, and then pull myself onto the shore to try to put things in perspective.  My wonderful partner knows this about me, and she helped talk me down off the ledge.  I make things so much worse in my head than they really are.  I wish I could stop doing that.

When I was in the throes of my pity party/freak out in my closet, I did think about drinking, and then I thought,  “That isn’t going to make it better.”  I know drinking to numb this temporary fear will only make me feel worse.   I felt the feelings, as unpleasant as they were, and I knew that I wasn’t going to drink.  Today is day 188.


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