Organic Evolution

For what it’s worth, I thought I might write about some things that I’ve learned and experienced since I’ve quit drinking-which was just about 2 1/2 years ago. Or 904 days as of today.

That last sentence, the number of days without alcohol might as well go into the first thing.  I don’t count days anymore.  To be honest, when I looked at how many days, I really didn’t know what was going to come up.  I just don’t give it much thought in that way anymore.  I suppose the whole counting thing comes from AA. How they give out chips for each milestone of sobriety.  In some ways, I can see that this is a good thing.. However, as time goes on, the fact that I don’t drink anymore just isn’t at the forefront of my consciousness. However, it does lead me into another point I’ve been thinking about.  Overthinking.

I am definitely into trying to be as conscious as I can be. Always looking at things from several angles, analyzing, processing. All of that.  But from my own experience as well as what I’ve read in various blogs, I think there may be a tendency to “overthink”.  Look, I get it-I am/was a pro at that.  That’s part of why I drank-to medicate that away.. To dull the whole overthinking thing-which in turn, kept me from truly being conscious.  The drinking, whether I was actually under the influence or not, totally played a part in every decision I made-in every aspect of my life. Always lurking in the background.  Then when we quit!  Well, everything comes up-in spades!  It’s almost as if we/I had been “bad” for so long that I had to correct it all at once.  No alcohol.  More exercise.  Better diet.  More this-less that.  Blah, blah, blah..That whole quest for and expectation of perfection. In many ways, it’s like changing one burden-the alcohol- for 100 others.  Sort of like all of the things that we don’t like about  ourselves and have kept at bay by the use of alcohol have been unleashed and allowed to run rampant in our psyche.  It’s crazy!  It’s stressful! It’s a mindfuck! It’s that voice saying “okay, you’ve stopped drinking (for like 1 day) now you have to get your act together and fix every single thing in your life!” Right…It’s also a way of not feeling good about yourself.  As I’ve mentioned before, for some crazy reason, quitting an abusive habit feels like punishment, when in fact, it’s one of the best kinds of self love we can give to ourselves.

So, here’s one thing that I can say. STOP! Just Stop It!!!  Try to quit doing a number on yourself.  All of that yammering is you telling yourself that you’re not good enough and that’s just not true.  The single most important thing to do when you first stop drinking-and by “first stop drinking” I don’t mean the first day or week or even month-I mean as long as it takes-just don’t drink. Don’t worry about your diet.  Don’t worry about the gym-although I would recommend light exercise- just get through the day the best you can without finding reasons to beat yourself up.  If that means coming home at 4 and going to bed, just do it.  If it means coming home at 4 and eating 3 scones with jam and cream-go for it.  If you need to make some sugary “mocktails” to get through wine-o-clock-, go to the store and stock up on the supplies for this.  If your significant other still drinks, do not buy their alcohol if that’s going to pose a problem for you and make you struggle with not buying some for yourself. Take care of yourself. DON’T WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE! I do understand that children take a priority, of course! But don’t use them as an excuse. The biggest gift you can give them is the same one you can give yourself-sobriety.

The first 6-8 weeks that I went without alcohol, I really thought that I was in the middle of having some kind of breakdown.  Not like DT’s or anything like that-although I was really tired. But, I was mentally fragile.  Oh, I could keep it together at work and with clients, but I felt like I was hanging by a thread.  I thought that I was going crazy.  I had absolutely no patience (not that I ever have much under the best of circumstances:) and I felt like I had developed some form of Tourett’s Syndrome because I was cussing an unbelievable amount-even for me! I just tried to stay as even as I could.  While I didn’t want to, walking my dog was an incredible therapy-just being outside. To be honest, sometimes we only walked to a nearby bench because I couldn’t handle anything more and just sat there, enjoying the energy of nature.  Me trying to hang on. At times, even though I wasn’t fighting the urge to drink, I would have to remind myself that the rollercoaster of emotions that I was experiencing was my body and mind trying to balance itself out. In writing this I get the picture of a ship in a storm that’s leaning on it’s side-almost to the point of going over-but it doesn’t. Eventually, the storm abates and the ship rights itself.

What I’m trying to say is don’t be impatient with yourself.  Give yourself time.  You can always start a new diet or a new workout regime.  In my case, things just evolved organically, over time.  While things may not move as quickly as you or your ego would like, they will move.  As you become more grounded in living without medicating yourself, I think you’ll find that things will even out.  As your body changes and adapts to living without alcohol, your tastes may change.  You will certainly become more aware of things. In my case, I’m just not as focused on my weight or working out as I was when I was drinking.  I don’t know why- maybe it’s because when I was drinking I was so out of control that controlling my food and working out like a maniac made me feel like I was in control.  A false sense of control that was, as my whole existence was dictated by how, when and what I was going to drink. Now having said that, I will say, that I eat a healthy diet overall-but when I don’t, I don’t beat myself up.  I just let that boat right itself and go on. I am much easier on myself.  I can forgive myself. Speaking of things changing-even my taste in clothes changed somewhat.  Well, not my taste but my color preference. I discovered black in 1986 and that’s about all I wore for “donkey’s years”.  Sometimes, I’d throw in something purple.  But for the most part, my closet was one big black line of clothes.  I still love black and it’s definitely the dominant color in my wardrobe. But, I’ve also started incorporating cobalt blue and a few other shades of blue and other colors as well. I doubt I’ll ever wear pastels-I’d need a total lobotomy for that! But I’m letting more color into my life-in many ways.

You know what else? When I look in the mirror-at any time of day-it’s not always my first reaction to hate what I see.  I mean my first reaction when looking in a mirror previously would be “Ick!”  No self love there! But, I don’t do that anymore. Okay, sometimes, but nowhere near as much.  I’ve gained self acceptance.

Another extremely important component is to reach out. Find someone you can really confide in-without shame. This could be AA or another type of support group, a good friend or even reaching out to a fellow blogger.  And, while I know that I’ve said this before, dig deep and do the work.  By “the work”  I mean some kind of therapy. I know this may be hard or foreign, but it’s so important to not only share what you’re going through but to dig down deep for the reasons behind the behavior.  Scary, yes I know. Painful. Yes, it can be. BUT-once you do it, you will know so much about yourself.  You will be able to let go of so much needless shit in your brain.  Remember my recent post, where I met that guy who was a mess in a public place, even though he’d been sober for like 20 years? He hadn’t done his work-or program as they call it in AA. To be clear, I’m not pushing AA. It’s great for some and not for others. It’s about finding what works for you and how to go about it. Find the way that fits for you. You know the whole “body, mind and spirit” thing?  I believe in that.  It’s important to have and develop all three of those components to make a whole.  To develop them in a way that is comfortable and works for you. Find an outlet-journaling, breathing exercises, meditation, yoga.  Just try something, for say 10 minutes a day-see what may work for you. In 1987, after finding out that my ex had been having an affair (he wasn’t my ex then!) I went to a therapist who suggested that I start keeping a journal.  I have continued that for the past 31 years! Sometimes I write pages, sometimes one line, sometimes I skip several days.  But, I always go back to it-it’s become my silent witness so to speak. And, just so you know-I don’t use a fancy, leather bound thing-just spiral notebooks, college lined.

The world is so crazy right now. So much going on-so many things to be upset about.  However, in the midst of all of the mess, all of the injustices, there is still beauty to be found. There is still joy to be had. Keep reaching.  Keep reminding yourself.  Keep evolving. Believe in Your Self. Keep on putting one step in front of the other.  It will change.

With Love

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Don’t Be Like Him

Not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but I have a new job.  Well, it’s not that new now-I’ve been doing it for several months. I am a manager on duty at an event place that does mainly weddings.  I rotate dates with 2 other people.  Basically, I get here before the vendors, the event planner-whoever and get the lights turned on, the doors unlocked and set the climate control. I’m here during the event and then close up at the end after everyone else leaves.  I have to say, this is the polar opposite of catering.  It is SO FUCKING BORING!!!   But! It pays pretty good and they direct deposit into my account.  I bring a ton of food-as I’m here usually around 10 hours.  Today, I watched the Champions League Final on my iPad.  To be honest, the first few times I worked, I felt like I was going to get fired for slacking.  But there really is nothing to do.  Except for poking my head in every once in awhile, there’s no reason for me to be in the room where the event is going on.   And, I have to say, at the end of the night when I’m watching the caterers and the event people break down and load up, I am SO GLAD it’s not me.  Also, not to give myself a pat on the back, but to give myself a pat on the back, I realize that compared to a lot of the caterers that come through here, I was pretty damn good!

Needless to say, as these are wedding receptions, there’s alcohol involved.  For the most part,  everyone behaves.  But, there’s always a one or two that drink too much and are pretty sloppy at the end of the night.  To be honest, at times I see myself in some of these people.   However, for the most part, I’m in an office and not really involved except at the end of the night.  And so, like now, I can get on my iPad and do what I want.  Like write a blog post.

So, here I am tonight.  The ceremony was to be outside in the courtyard at 5:30.  Of course at that point it was over 100 degrees out-but hey, that wasn’t my call.  Anyway, all of the guests were seated and the bridal party was lined up to proceed with the procession.  I walked up to the front of the house and saw this guy come in late, really kind of frazzled, with a cup in his hand.  He asked me how to get to where everyone was seated and I pointed him down the hall to the open door where the bridal party was making their way out.  The bar was on the way and to be honest, I wasn’t surprised when he stopped at it.  Made a snap judgement and thought something to myself along the lines of “Yep!  He’s a drinkerprobably been drinking all day!” And then forgot about it and him.  Then later, as I was making another round of the building  ( I walk about 5000 steps over the evening-which makes up for the half pint of Ben and Jerry’s Karmal Sutra I just ate) anyway,  he was back in the kitchen- where no one ever goes.  And we started talking.  He was saying how he was nervous because he didn’t drink and everyone was drinking.  What a struggle it was and he LOOKED like he was really having a hard time.  I said that I’d quit drinking a few years ago and that I never woke up and wished I’d gotten drunk the night before.  We talked about how things that used to seem fun drunk weren’t anymore. I said how I always wanted to stay the longest and now  I was always ready to leave after about 5 minutes.  I mean, this guy was struggling with being here-around all these people he knows that he used to drink with.  I asked why didn’t he leave and he said he came in from out of town for this, blah blah blah.  But then, he told me that it’s been like 20 YEARS since he quit!  20 YEARS!!  I was blown away.   Not that I showed it, but to see him and talk to him, I would’ve guessed that he was in the early days of sobriety.  I mean he looks like a hard core drinker in the throes of detox. He was sweating, almost twitching, nervous. This got me thinking.

The first thing that came to mind is that I need to quit making snap judgements about people.  The other thing was, while I don’t know if this guy is in or ever was in some kind of program, I don’t think he’s done the work.  By this I mean either following the steps or done some kind of inner work.  I really felt for him. He just seemed in so much distress. I’m hoping that in his day to day life he’s in some kind of situation where he’s cocooned.  But is that really living? I’m not saying we should go into situations that make us uncomfortable, but at the same time, life happens.  To come to a celebration like a wedding and be so distressed about being around people that are drinking-it’s sad.  It almost seems as if it’s missing the point.

Of course health reasons and issues are a huge part and a very good reason to abstain from alcohol. But it’s also about living a fuller, more balanced life.  It’s about going through life “unmedicated.”  Being sober does not mean acting soberly in all circumstances  Now while I don’t know this guy’s story and I also realize that I’m projecting, I’m gonna go with that for a bit.  To me, this was an example of just hanging onto sobriety by your fingernails.  What joy is there in that?  I realize that for some, quitting is the main thing.  And, that’s a good thing.  But it’s just the beginning. And I think it has to be in tandem with really doing some inner work. Facing up to the reasons why.  Acknowledging whatever hurts and pains we’ve experienced in our lives.  Being honest withourselves-at times brutally honest.  It’s about working through our issues and  making a commitment to making the changes in our lives so that, not only do we quit drinking, but we are able to to release the reasons why.  We become self educated in recognizing the things that trigger our negative behavior-We learn to love ourselves enough to stop the self harm.  We learn to accept ourselves-all of our parts and idiosyncrasies.  We become familiar with what makes us whole.  What makes us feel good about ourselves. We learn to become comfortable in our own skin.   While all of this may include cutting some people out of our lives and even boycotting certain situations, it does not mean to exist by hanging on by a thread.  Where’s the joy in that?  And that’s the word. Joy.  I believe that we are here in order to experience this thing called life in the fullest way possible.  All of it’s ups and downs-all the good and the bad.  Doing this kind of deep inner work takes commitment.  It’s scary.  It can be draining.  But at the same time, it can lead to an unbelievable freedom.  Not that working on ourselves really ever finishes.  We will always have issues.  There will always be people and situations that punch our buttons.  We can always choose to look at these situations and grow from them.  Wonder why our reaction to something is so strong.  It means taking steps to find the right kind of help-again for some that may be “working the program”.  For others, it may mean seeing a therapist or joining some kind of group therapy situation.  Living sober should be about experiencing a kind of freedom that’s unknown while in the midst of an additction. The joy is under all the muck.  That guy at that wedding, he wasn’t free. He was missing out. Don’t be like him.

With Love

*after meeting this guy, I rushed in to my iPad and wrote most of this post. just finished it  today…