The Party Girl Challenge, One Year Sober

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Archive for the month “April, 2012”

I am still fun

Rick and Renee at Cornyation

That’s me with my friend who is the Master of Ceremonies for an event called Cornyation that is part of Fiesta in San Antonio. Its difficult to describe Fiesta…I have lived here for over 15 years, off and on, and I still have no idea what the point of the whole thing is. During college is was an excuse to party as hard as possible for ten straight days. When my kids were younger it seemed too hard to go all the way downtown just to party. But I always made it to a few events every year. I usually drank too much. I think I had fun.

This is my first sober Fiesta. I wanted to go to Cornyation because a big group of my theatre friends were doing skits. Cornyation is…I have no idea what it is… and I attended two days ago.

Its sort of theatre. Sort of.

I pulled this off the Cornyation Facebook page:

“This is it, cornheads. Tonight begins King Anchovy XLVII, (Duh — the 47th) Andrew Weissman’s reign over The Court of Never Ending Endings! Enjoy the show, but please DO NOT throw your panties onto the stage.”

Rumor has it that Cornyation has been nearly pulled out of the line up of Fiesta events for being too raunchy. The website says, “The show’s irreverent, pokes at politicians, the prominent and the not-so-prominent”. Much of the show is done in Drag. That’s all I knew and it sounded fun to me. I also heard people dress up…and I love dressing up. So I put on a costume, kissed my family goodbye and headed out.

I have always known that I was fun. I am an actress for goodness sake. I like being the center of attention…and being the drunkest person at every event has probably contributed to my popularity in that regard. But this year, no drinking. I wasn’t really sure how that was going to go. So I went with a friend who has a great sense of humor and could care less about drinking. This woman makes me laugh so hard I can barely stand it. She had a few glasses of wine at dinner…I had a rare indulgence…a MEXICAN coke. (that’s how wild I was feeling…an entire bottle of…not just coke…but MEXICAN Coke…of yeah, I was ready to PAR Tee.)

When we arrived at the event location the line to enter the theater covered two city blocks. Seriously…two city blocks. And the people in that line…well you could smell the alcohol wafting off them. I am not kidding here, you could actually smell alcohol emanating from the line. And the people in the line, well they were really, really funny. This is coming from a sober person. The collective energy of the people in that line…I can’t describe it very well….but it was something about the anticipation, maybe influenced by the collective intoxication. There was another fiesta event ending as CORNYATION was beginning. The event letting out was filled with super wealthy fancy socialite types in formal attire entering sidewalks blocked by hundreds of the city’s fringe community of artists, gays, lesbians, many of them (on both sides) highly intoxicated. It reminded me of the Dr. Suess story called The Zax.

Only no one seemed to mind…no one was angry. Everyone was smiley and happy. And I was smiley and happy. The vibe was fun and my sobriety wasn’t bothering me one bit. As we entered the building I noticed several signs that said, “No Beach Balls, No tortillas, No Silly String”. I wandered what I had gotten myself into but I felt hopeful and excited.

So how was it? It was pretty awful. A couple of the skits were funny, one even bordered on intelligent. The vast majority just contained people in drag, dancing around on stage, and telling “stories” that didn’t make any sense at all. The people watching was cool. At intermission I walked with my friend to the bar and watched several groups doing shots together. I wondered how drunk I would have gotten if I were still drinking. I marveled at the drinking and wondered if the hangover was worth it…the one they would all have the next morning. After the show, we found a man standing outside the ladies room yelling, “panda bear?”. We found panda bear barfing in the stall next to mine and I laughed…at her…not with her. (sorry at panda bear…but really, who the heck goes by the name panda bear?)

By the time we made it to the car, I had a laughter headache. I laughed so much and so hard that it actually gave me a headache. I was up too late and I was super tired the next day. I could barely function to take care of my kids but it was entirely from lack of sleep, I didn’t have a hangover at all.

But what was really lovely was that I discovered that I am still fun. I honestly wasn’t sure I would be fun sober. I have never tried it before. I gotta tell you, its such a relief to discover that. It sounds kind of silly but it was one of my fears…that no one would like me if I wasn’t the party girl anymore. But two nights ago…I owned my blog name.

I am the SOBER PARTY GIRL.

Sigh of relief.

Drinking Dreams and Motherhood

I hate tuesdays, especially when my husband travels. (this next part is all mother whining, so feel free to skip this paragraph) At 3PM my little guy gets home, has a snack and then we leave to go to the middle school to pick up my oldest and drive her to the gymnastics center. Then we go back home. I have about 45 minutes to make dinner before we need to leave again. Yesterday, I hadn’t finished all the work I needed to do so I didn’t have time to make anything. At 5:00 I begin the process of trying to get my middle child ready for soccer which involves asking him nicely several times and then screaming at him multiple times and then searching for his uniform which he always loses because he always leaves it on the floor somewhere. Don’t even get me started about that. Then we head to pick up our carpool and drive to soccer at 6. Soccer ends at 7:30. We have to rush back to the car in order to make it to the gymnastics center by 8PM to pick up my daughter. Then we take the carpool home and finally, we arrive at home at about 8:45. Last night, I still had to make dinner and I was tired and VERY short tempered from spending hours in the car with the Bickerstaffs. (that’s what i call my boys who fight NON-STOP…which just makes me crazy because I can’t stand the sound of fighting…leftover childhood trauma.)

We walked in the door and there was quite an exciting mess waiting for me. My old dog had eaten an entire bag of cat food yesterday and I had to deal with that mess already. But today, she was reacting to the cat food by vomiting ALL over the KITCHEN. Yes, five vomits awaited me. I screamed when I saw it. Put my kids in the game room and told them to do their home work NOW….and that I had better not hear one complaint or they were all going down in a sea of mommy crazy. I got my super calm voice going…which scares them to death. Oh no, the calm voice…

At that moment, I wanted to drink more than I have in 3 months. I wanted to drink so badly I might have pushed you down and ripped a drink out of your hands if you had on and were standing next to me.

I cleaned the vomit and made the easiest dinner ever  for my kids. I sat down on the couch and just pretended my little guy didn’t need to be in bed…an hour ago. We ate and we watched some stupid cooking show called CHOPPED that my kids like. I knew it was wrong to let the little one stay up so late…but really, I wasn’t in a good place. I needed to just sit there. All I could think was…why did I have so many kids? Clearly I am not cut out for this, I am too selfish…I just want to run away where no one is depending on me…because i hate it. Last night, i absolutely hated it.

I finally took my little guy back to bed. He wanted me to read him a story but it was 9:45 and I just couldn’t. I cuddled up next to him in bed and rubbed his back instead. I think I fell asleep before he did. My other kids, I guess they put themselves to bed. I assume they did because I was done…I needed that day to end…and it did end.

Once again, mother of the year goes to RENEE…The sober party girl.

NOT.

Yeah, I know…I am hard on myself. Yeah, I know…I need to stop that.

At 4 in the morning I woke up fully dressed…sharing a twin bed with a 7 year old and feeling completely loony. I had just had my very first drinking dream. In the dream, I was on a trip at a beach, I was searching for a good spot to set up with a group of friends. It was sunny and beautiful and music was playing in the background. We got set up and a waitress (it’s a dream here folks) came and asked us if we wanted a cocktail from the bar. I spent a LOT of time deciding what to have but finally settled on vodka and tonic with lots of fresh lime. And cigarettes, I asked for some cigarettes. My friend looked at me and asked if I was sure I wanted to do that. I told her to leave me alone…I wanted to drink and smoke today. And I did. The rest of the dream was just me, on the beach, drinking and listening to music and smoking too….and dancing. And having a lot of fun.

Thanks subconscious brain, you are so helpful.  If this were to happen…in reality…I would freaking hate myself for it. I would have to get drunk really, really fast to give up so easily on my vision of this year of self discovery and sobriety. Because its just not going to happen. I am not going to give up on it. It’s hard, some days are going to be really hard. But I am going to just keep living through it. I will not give up on it like I did in my dream. No way, no matter how crappy a day in mommy land I have. No matter how bad I feel or how overwhelmed I am…I am not going to stop believing that I can do this. I have something to prove and i am going to prove. Take that subconscious brain!

So F.U. Tuesdays and dog vomit and drinking dreams.

You cannot win. You cannot take me back to the darkness of late January, 2012.

SO there.

NEWSFLASH: Sobriety is difficult.

Last night I had plans to go out with one of my closest friends. Which translates to: a drinking friend. We haven’t really been out since I quit. I haven’t been out. I tried blaming the lack of invites on my friends but they were quick to retort that I haven’t really been calling them or inviting them places either. So I decided to go for it…called a close girlfriend and said let’s go out. Going out has always meant bars but I figured I was ready, i could handle it. And I am lonely, a little bored…I need some girlfriend time. I had to do something for work and couldn’t meet up until 9PM so I asked where she wanted to meet. About 5PM she texted back saying, “I don’t care where we go. I am headed to get some dinner with a group of neighborhood friends. We have been drinking mimosas all day. :-)

I read this and reacted with anger, frustration and sadness.

I wasn’t sure why it made me mad. But I was mad. And in the spirit of honoring my feelings, I decided to just let myself be angry for a little while.

For a while I just felt like it was insensitive of her to be drunk when we were supposed to hang out later…her sober friend.

Then I thought maybe I was just jealous. Yeah, I was a little jealous.

And then I seriously considered canceling. I figured she would probably be either tired once the buzz wore off, or drunk…which meant I didn’t want to be there with her. I had been prepared to go to bars but somehow it felt different to me, arriving in a group of women who had been drinking all day. I decided to decide later and went to my work event.

Afterwards, when I got in the car, I decided just to go and see what happened. I took deep breathes, told myself it would ok. As soon as I got out of the car and walked into the group of women, I could smell the wine. A sober friend described once that sometimes the smell of alcohol will make her salivate. That’s how I felt. The smell of the wine was powerful and I did feel a strong wave of desire. My friends hugged me, they were clearly tipsy, one more than the other. The one I had plans to hang out with, she was slightly tipsy seeming but not bad at all. I felt instantly at ease. She can handle her alcohol. She rarely gets drunk. I have seen her a little drunk a couple of times and a LOT drunk only once. She is the type who paces herself and stops when she starts to feel drunk. She has self control. When we said goodbye to the larger group and got in the car to head toward downtown, the reality of where my anger had been coming from really hit me.

I am angry because sobriety is difficult. I don’t know what to do with myself. I am not comfortable going to bars. Not really. I say I am because I want to be with my friends, but that’s just me lying to myself. I don’t want to go to bars. I don’t know where I want to go and I don’t know how to behave or relax or be normal as a sober person. I am not comfortable with sobriety. I wrote yesterday, all the great things about sober living and they are all still true.

But it’s hard to be the sober one. It’s hard not drinking. And it’s harder not smoking. I am weaker than I want anyone to know. I am not ready to hang out in my old drinking places. I wish I were, but I am not. I hope I will be someday, but I am not there yet.

My friend said right away that she didn’t care where we went. Knowing that she had already spent the day in drinking mode i figured she really didn’t care, she wasn’t just saying to make me happy. So we headed to a fringe theater that I love and watched a guy do a one man show. Then we went to my favorite funky eating place and had brussel sprouts and fried chicken. We laughed and talked and had a wonderful time. She never seemed to mind that we weren’t in a bar. She is my friend, she loves me. BUT: At dinner there was a table of four to the right of me. They were sharing a bottle of red wine. The color of the wine was deep red, a really heavy looking Malbec. That’s my favorite. They were all tipsy and animated and laughing and talking. Watching them, I did want to be them. I did. Then, as though the universe was playing an evil trick on me, in spite of the smoking ban, several people around me all lit up cigarettes…I am not sure why. Here I was surrounded by the wine I used to love drinking and the smell of cigarettes drifting past my nose and I wanted to cry. But I didn’t, we paid the check. We got out of there. It was fine. I made it through. SO even though we didn’t go to bars, it was still difficult. I think that is why people who are trying to get sober hide in their houses. I can’t do that. I won’t.

Next time, I will just say, “I want to spend time with you but I am really not ready to hang out in bars yet. Would you like to go out and just hang out at places where drinking is not the focus like it is in bars?” Most of my friends are mothers and we just don’t get out that often. When we do, we always go to bars. I can understand if they don’t want to give up their one night out every few weeks to hang out with sober me, doing sober things. But hopefully they won’t mind doing it every other time….or once every few months.

In the meantime, I really do need to find some sober friends. I know you are out there, sober people. I just need to find out where sober people hang out. LOL.

Happy Sunday.

Happy Sober Anniversary to ME!

Three months no alcohol today.

One month no cigarettes or “other” mind altering substances. 

There are good days and bad ones but the good ones are definitely starting to outweigh the bad. I am getting used to not drinking. I am still waiting to get used to not smoking but I can imagine a time when I will be used to that too. That’s new, I have always seen myself as a smoker. That’s not true anymore.

I can honestly say, I like sobriety. SO to celebrate my anniversary today I am doing…

drumroll please…

THE TOP TEN REASONS WHY SOBER LIVING IS AWESOME

10. I have a lot more time to do creative things now that I am not spending hours sitting on the porch smoking and drinking with my girlfriends.

9. I no longer smell like an alcohol soaked ashtray trying to hide beneath a gallon of perfume and flowered lotions. 

8. I am brushing my teeth two or three times a day now, instead of ten times a day when I was hiding cigarettes and alcohol on my breathe.

7. I haven’t asked the question, “Am I too drunk to drive?” or woken up to the thought “wow, I really shouldn’t have driven home last night.” in three months. I LOVE that so much. I think it might be my favorite thing on this list.

6. I haven’t had a hangover in three months. This no hangover thing, it’s really wonderful.

5. Aside from yelling at my kids a few times, I haven’t done anything in three months that made me feel humiliated or ashamed of myself. No, I think this one is my favorite.

4. My husband keeps saying how much he loves me when I am sober. I was worried, he always loved how fun I was in bars…but he only loved me in the beginning of the night before I got sloppy. Now he can’t stop saying how calm I seem and how happy.

3. Alcohol is expensive. If I drank three or four bottles of wine a week at home, that’s $80-$100 a week on just wine. That doesn’t include the savings when I don’t order alcohol in bars or restaurants. I am saving SO much money.

2. The world is getting clearer everyday. Sometimes that clarity is scary, but I am embracing the fear rather than turning from it.

AND THE NUMBER ONE THING I LOVE ABOUT SOBRIETY…

1. I am pretty sure I can do anything now. If I can do this, live three months without one drop of alcohol, I am convinced there isn’t anything I can’t do. This is not cocky…this is not ego. This is me, living the truth and proving to myself that I can change. 

I am pretty proud of myself. And as I get ready to head to bed for the night…I feel incredibly blessed and happy.

Seriously considering making another declaration on the 21st of April, to give up sugar for a while. That’s a hard one and I don’t want to do too much and I make myself crazier than I am normally. We shall see…maybe that’s what I will blog about tomorrow.

Have a wonderful day.

some things just suck

I have always had a strong desire for everything around me to be peaceful. I don’t like conflict, I overindulge my children so they will always be happy…I absolutely cannot stand the sound of my children fighting. It makes me crazy. Recently I have begun to suspect that to really get to the healing I need to get to, I need to accept a few realities about the universe.

1. Not everyone will like you.

2. Saying No to your children is a good thing. They need to hear no and you need to accept it when they are mad at you. It will pass.

3. Life is hard. There are beautiful moments, yucky ones and a whole lot of boring drudgery in between. That’s life. Get used to it.

4. Sobriety means making some new friends who don’t drink and party. Not all of your friends from the drinking world want you to get sober. That’s reality. It hurts but your sobriety scares them, even annoys them a little. Its ok.

5. You have done some stupid things when you were drinking. Its not ok but its important to forgive yourself. Forgiving yourself is important. This is one of the steps in AA. That feeling of remorse and shame makes you want to drink again, ask for forgiveness, earn forgiveness and let it go.

I labeled this post “SOME THINGS JUST SUCK” because some things, well, they just suck. (giggling like the demented person that I am.) When I read over this list it seems so obvious and simple. But really, these five things are really, really hard for me to accept. Esp. the part about forgiving myself and accepting that not everyone will like me. Admitting these things, even putting them on paper, is hard. But its time to get real if I want to get happy. Even though I may not like these realities of life, they are what they are.

I do a form of exercise called NIA. Its complicated to describe so I looked it up:

“Nia is a sensory-based movement practice that leads to health, wellness and fitness. It empowers people of all shapes and sizes by connecting the body, mind, emotions and spirit.”

The first time I tried it, I called it barefoot hippie dancing and I didn’t go back for years. Now, I do it at least once or twice a week. I rarely make it through a class without crying. It touches me in a place where the inability to accept these five life realities also lives. Connecting to NIA is linked to my desire to change in these last several months. NIA is healing me in so many ways. Its helping me to accept the realities of life that I have been hiding from. I think every body, who needs and wants to heal should find something like NIA. I also do Yoga, I run with my dogs, etc…

The “thing” you find should and will be different for everyone. But I think its important to find one and then stick to it. No one cares when I cry in NIA class. On Wednesday I attended a class and a song played near the end and I wept like I have never wept in class before. A few tears just erupted from the memory. Silly Renee, you are a mess right now.

You are a beautiful mess, right now.

The song that played was by Sinead O’Conner and it was called Thank You for Hearing Me. I downloaded it and am playing it a lot right now. Its linked to this post. Its really about thanking someone for hearing you, healing you, and even thanking them for breaking your heart so that you could be healed. Its beautiful and perfectly illustrates where I am right now on this journey called life. Life is hard, some things just suck, and thank you universe for healing me.

the many faces of alcoholism

I think I struggle with calling myself an alcoholic because the people I always called alcoholics just aren’t like me at all. When I imagined an alcoholic, I pictured someone who can’t function. Someone who allows their entire life to be destroyed because they want to keep drinking. I picture someone mean and angry, someone who drinks every chance they can and gets drunk everyday. That wasn’t me and I can’t honestly picture it ever being me. I am super responsible. I can’t stand to back out of a commitment. I go where I say I will go, I show up when I say I will be there…I am pretty dependable. Certainly my drinking got me into some trouble but never trouble like you see on shows like Intervention. I asked the question in my first blog post why I couldn’t drink responsibly like some people. One of the answers I got was because I am an alcoholic. Ok. Maybe I am. That’s why I am here….not drinking….because I am trying to figure that out. But what does it mean to be an alcoholic? I googled it and came up with one definition:

Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker’s health, personal relationships, and social standing.

Hmmm…ok….so what does compulsive mean?

Compulsive behavior is behavior not because they want to behave that way, but because they feel they have to do so.

Ok, that makes sense. I can see that. I would say that definition makes it seem like its more purposeful, I would argue you just behave badly rather than feeling drawn to behave badly…but I am just playing with words. I wonder if the key idea in compulsive drinking is the intention to control your drinking but the reality never meets up with those intentions. The road to hell is paved with good intentions…

The more I try to fit the idea of alcoholism into some nice neat little box, the more difficult it becomes. Because it doesn’t really matter how other people define an alcoholic, it only matters what I think. SO…lately i have been thinking about the other people I know who drink. I have been classifying my drinking friends and the people I see in social situations. While I have been not drinking, I have been watching other people drink instead. And its interesting…watching other people drink. I tell you one thing, people drink a lot. Maybe I am just surrounded by people who like to drink…but it seems like everywhere I look people are drinking and they are drinking a lot.

I have been grouping them in my head…it’s fun. I know its wrong to take time out to classify the people I love into different types of drinkers…but frankly, I have had to occupy my overly active imagination with something besides a quest for mind altering substances.

SO here we go:

The Many Shapes and Sizes of the Heavy Drinker

(notice this post is not about casual drinkers, you casual drinkers beguile me…I wish I could be like you but somehow I think I can’t)

The Grown Up FRAT Boy

These drinkers have been downing ten or fifteen beers in an evening for twenty plus years. Its rarely obvious they are drunk. Usually, the only way you can tell for sure is that they always have a beer in their hand. They rarely drink anything besides beer and when they do, everyone wishes they hadn’t because these beer guzzlers are used to large quantities and can’t handle liquor like they can handle beer. The sure fire sign of the The Grown Up Frat Boy is the big round beer belly, that jiggles when they laugh…like a bowl full of jello. These guys (and sometimes gals but not as often) rarely cause problems when they drink for anyone besides their families and friends because they rarely drink away from home. Because they stick close to home, they don’t get DUI’s as often, cause bar fights, or get arrested for public intoxication.

The WINE SNOB Drinker

Fine dining and wine, go hand and hand. These folks like to go out, enjoy a long meal over several bottles of wine. I can’t even count the number of people I know who can fit into this category. The discussions that go into the perfect wine to accompany the perfect meal…the discussions over which wine was the best…the wine tastings..the wine bars and the flights of wine so that several varieties can be tasted over the course of the meal. My parents generation, they all seem to drink this way. And a group of four or six adults might share three bottles of wine over the course of a meal. I am not talking about people who have one glass of wine with dinner and then stop…I am talking wine drinking evenings. And then they all walk to the parking lot, laughing and talking and then they get in their cars and drive home. Maybe they pick up their kids from their parents house on the way or they get home and one of the adults drives the babysitter home. Its all very refined and rarely is the idea of being intoxicated an issue…rarely does anyone seem to have had too much. Sometimes the wine dinner will move to the local bar and become full drunken debauchery but mostly its very civilized wine drinking. Its not about getting drunk…its about drinking delicious wine with a wonderful meal with friends.  A wonderful meal where many people get drunk but it doesn’t count because its not about that. (is my sarcasm coming through loudly enough?)

The SUPER FUN Party People

Well, go to any bar, in any city, in any neighborhood, all over this big USA and you will find the SUPER FUN Party People. They are everywhere and boy are they having fun. They are drinking and dancing and really having a rocking great time. Ok, seriously…most people drinking in bars do look like they are having fun. They are dressed up and pretty and slightly intoxicated at the beginning of the evening and kind of cute. Its only later, when the super fun party people can turn into the super drunk obnoxious people. Thats when bad things happen to good people. We have all seen the super drunk party people at the end of the night, throwing up, or stumbling out of the bar, or hooking up with perfect strangers in dark hallways. I am not talking college kids here…I am talking people my age…actual grown ups, people with homes and children, and good jobs. A LOT of the people in bars handle their liquor just fine….two, maybe three drinks and that’s it. Or they handle it most nights with an occasional night of overindulging. But I am not interested in those people. I am interested in the ones who overindulge more often than they don’t. I am watching the ones who aren’t counting their drinks to make sure to space them so they don’t get drunk. I am talking about people who get dressed up, go to bars, with the intention of getting drunk and then they do it.

The MEAN DRUNK

These people have a few and then turn on you. They go from smiling to scary, crying, screaming, freaky messes in the matter of one…maybe two drinks. Its ugly what happens to these drunks. It scares people away. For the mean drunk, sometimes its a certain type of alcohol that makes them turn mean. But when it happens, its really awful. I hate to admit it but my father was this way. He was a smily happy drunk until all of the sudden, he wasn’t. You never knew when it was going to happen and so you tip toed around…being very careful not to set off the mean, scary drunk. I think every drunk person has the potential to become mean, but there are some people who almost always turn mean when they drink. I have the most difficult time with these drunks. because I hate conflict.
The INSTANT SLUT Drunk, Just add liquor
Ah…the INSTANT SLUT. She is so fun…we really don’t want her to do anything crazy like go and get sober, would we? How would any average looking man ever get lucky at 2AM on a Saturday night again? Ok, I have said that I fall into this category but not quite as badly as I am making it sound. I get very flirty, I get very touchy…but I do not go home with strangers in bars. But who I become, this sexpot, is completely different than the real me. COMPLETELY different. And that’s what makes this type of drunk interesting. The instant slut is not a slut in real life, she just becomes one when she drinks. Its almost like drinking alcohol turns her into a completely different person. (again with the sarcasm) Notice I keep calling this type a woman, but really, how often do we call men sluts? When men act like this, we call them men….drunk men, annoying men, but not drunk slutty men…it’s a double standard. Sorry ladies, but it is.
For you UMALICIOUS
The CLOSET Drunk
The secret drinker is particularly hard to describe because frankly, no one has any idea they are drinking. Maybe the folks who really know the person well. But even close friends and family may be in the dark about how much this person drinks. I knew someone like this and when she went to rehab I was completely shocked. It was true she often got drunk fast and would leave early or fall asleep at parties. We learned later that she got drunk before she came to the party…she was so nervous about the social situation that she felt like she had to drink heavily before she arrived to deal with it. One of the things I found on every “signs you might be an alcoholic” was the idea of drinking in seclusion. I think its a fundamental dark side to drinking…drinking alone. I definitely had a habit of drinking a glass or two of wine before social situations to relax me before I needed to be “ON”.  I think it wold be really hard to get sober if you are a closet drunk because sobriety involves so much interaction with the outside world…getting help means taking to other people and saying you need help. And that can be terrifying for the closet drinker.

The Functional Alcoholic: IN DENIAL

I have a specific person in mind when I describe this type of drinker. He drinks a lot. I saw him once in the parking lot at my daughter’s gym, chugging a cold one at 5PM on a Tuesday night. He laughed and wasn’t even slightly embarrassed that I caught him drinking in his car at 5PM on a Tuesday. He drinks a LOT and its very noticeable. But I notice him because I am watching. Once when I first quit drinking…it was still really fresh…it turned out he was going to be my daughter and I’s ride home from a sporting event. I could smell the beer on him. I was hyper sensitive. His driving wasn’t terrible, but he had clearly had a few. I watched his wife and wondered why it didn’t occur to her to drive the car. I wondered how many times I had driven my kids after several beers and it made my stomach churn. Anyway, everyone knows someone like this guy. He drinks…all the time…at every event. He is always the first person to suggest drinking and doesn’t seem to care if anyone else joins him. He is a cheerful, happy drunk…well liked and rarely obnoxious.

The FUNCTIONAL Alcoholic: ACCEPTANCE PHASE

There isn’t much difference between these two types of functional alcoholics, except the acceptance version knows its a problem. These folks know they drink too much, but just aren’t interested in stopping. Or perhaps they go through periods of not drinking just to prove to themselves they can. They have had lots of episodes of drinking remorse so the really functional ones rarely drink in public. They know what happens when they do…they drink too much…say or do embarrassing things and end up with drinking remorse. So they solve that problem by doing most of their drinking at home. They aren’t really hiding their drinking…they are hiding from the world so they can drink freely. This type of functional alcoholic, in my opinion, is even more functional than the ones in denial…because they have come to an understanding with their drinking. There has been a truce. I suspect this is where I would have ended up had I not stopped drinking. The drinking remorse was killing me mentally. But isolation just so you can safely drink….doesn’t sound much fun. I wonder if this type of drinking can go on forever or if it always progresses to the next type…

THE WINNER is…The ALCOHOL

I know a couple of people like this. Or maybe I used to know them. They don’t really exist anymore because the hunger for alcohol has consumed their lives. This is the type of person I imagined when I thought of the word alcoholic. Someone who drinks all the time, everyday, all day. Someone who can’t go to work all the time, always drinks until they get drunk, can’t function in normal everyday activities. Nothing about these folks is functional. Its really, really sad. Some of these folks work regular jobs and maintain that portion of their lives with integrity but as soon as work is over its drink, drink, drink til you pass out. This traditional vision of an alcoholic makes me really sad. Some people say alcoholism is a progressive disease and everyone gets to this point. I don’t believe that. I think people can live their entire lives as a functional alcoholic.


Have ideas for this list? Please add them in the comments.

XOXO

I need your stories!

I just took a weekend trip with my family. All five of us flew across the country to watch one of us compete in a sporting competition. I have to say, there are some seriously good things about not drinking or smoking on these trips. Mainly, I just feel so much less stressed out. I don’t know why, but I do. I was noticing how much time I have when I am not constantly looking for a way to get away and go and smoke. Nicotene withdrawal left in a  constant state of stress and frustration. My husband keeps saying over and over how much nicer I am when I am not drinking. I can’t tell the difference but I know for sure I feel calmer. There was a really difficult moment when the competition was over and the group of parents that we usually hang out with afterwards headed to dinner. I felt such a sense of relief that my daughter had met her goals and qualified for the next round of competitions. The stress was over and it was time to celebrate. The rest of the parents couldn’t get the alcohol into their bodies fast enough. I wanted to share in that wine party so badly. The dad, my former drinking buddy, and one of the witnesses to my shining “vegas drunk on video” moment….offered me wine four times (I counted.) But I said no thanks, every time. And I woke up the next day with no regrets and no hangover and I was ready to face the day.

But now that not drinking and smoking is getting slightly easier (only slightly…lets be honest here) I want to get to work collecting data on the subject of drinking. PLEASE, send me your stories. Who you are and what your relationship is to alcohol. If you have quit drinking, please tell me why and how you feel about it. Has it been difficult? You can post them as a comment to this post…

I intend to take the stories I collect and create a piece of theatre from it. I have done this before with interviews I conducted on the subject of Breast Cancer. Basically, I created characters from the stories I collected and presented them in a one woman show format. All of the stories I present on stage are completely anonymous.

You can also answer any of the questions that I asked on my first blog post including:

1) Does a tendency to over indulge mean that the only solution is to be completely sober? Or can you learn self control?
2) How do people become sober? Whats the best way? What are the different approaches? What works and what doesn’t work?
3) Whats the big deal? So I drink too much? Does it really matter? Who cares? Whats the harm in getting drunk every once in a while?
4) If I have been the life of every party for the past 25 or so years, how can I live a sober lifestyle? Does this mean I never get to go out and have fun again? Am I relegated to a lifetime of staying home in my safe alcohol free household?
5) What is about me that keeps me from being able to drink/party responsibly?
6) What is about other people that they can drink, even get drunk on occasion and not have a problem with alcohol?
7) Is out society too focused on Alcohol? Is that normal?
8) How does parents alcohol use affect their children? Is it always a bad thing? Is there a way to drink responsibly around your children?
If you have already written your story in your own blog, simply post the link  in a comment.Thank you so much for sharing your stories with me. I believe we can all learn from each other. None of us are exactly alike but we have similarities. We have the power to help others by sharing our stories. I remember I read a book a few years ago, a memoir written by a mother with small children who had decided she was an alcoholic and quit drinking. I think it was called Mommy Doesn’t Drink Here Anymore. The book really hit home for me because there were a lot of similarities in our stories…afternoons spent sitting by the pool surrounded by kids and a bottle or two of white wine. I read it but decided I wasn’t as bad off as that lady…I didn’t need to drink like she did. But it affected me, her story. It sat in the back of my mind and I would find myself thinking about it during moments of severe drinking remorse. She didn’t convince me when I heard her story, but that story…it affected me slowly over time. So share yours.
Please.

I am a pain in the ass.

Almost 42 years into this world and I am finally beginning to see myself as I really am. And I have a son who is a whole lot like me and he is like a mirror sometimes, reflecting back so many of my traits including all my pain in the assness…

And all my beauty.

I am crazy passionate. I get excited about something and there is no stopping me. When I set my mind to something I just go without much thought and it means I have accomplished a lot in my short life. I am creative, I have good ideas. Not all my ideas are good, but most of them are. I am smart too.

But these strengths are also my weaknesses. When I get passionate about something its difficult to get me to slow down and think before I act which means I make sloppy mistakes. I get obsessed with ideas and people. I have a very difficult time taking no for an answer. If you look though my book shelf, you will find at least 50 books from ideas that I got really excited about and went crazy about before really thinking it through. I have an insatiable hunger for things I love…I just can’t get enough. Which, clearly, has fueled my addictive behavior. I don’t have a glass of wine, I have four. I don’t exercise twice a week, I exercise six days a week…for two hours. I can eat an entire package of cookies. I can smoke an entire pack of cigarettes in one evening. With good conversation, I can stay up all night talking. My hunger for the people I love can become very tiring for them. I wear on them, become overwhelming, I can be too much. I see it, I understand it.

So, this year…the decision to be completely sober…needs to be about slowing down and taking time to think things through before deciding. It needs to be about accepting this part of myself as my greatest asset and my biggest weakness. Its about taking big breathes and being present in THIS moment rather than always rushing to the next big moment. If I am always in a rush toward the next big event in my life, I am missing all the beauty of each tiny moment.

I have been walking my middle child to the bus stop every morning lately. He is the kid most like me, mr. passion, mr. overwhelming, mr. independent. So independent the he doesn’t need me to walk with him. But even though he doesn’t admit it, he likes it when I do. We just walk there. A block away, we chat. I just focus on him, let him babble, watch him express himself. See myself in him, the beauty of me and the excitement reflecting back. I am amazed by how “in a hurry” I have been for my entire life. I think thats why its so hard to give up cigarettes because smoking was my only down time…the only time I just sat and breathed. If I am going to stay quit, I have to make time to just sit and breathe. I need to find a way to be present in the moment. I can’t believe I didn’t realize how lovely a short walk with my middle child could be every morning. I didn’t know how easy it would be to give him that five minutes of myself and how much I would enjoy it. Six months ago I would have been so focused on packing lunches for the other kids, doing the breakfast dishes, I would have believed I didn’t have that five minutes to spare. But I do. Its so easy.

And understanding that I am a pain in the ass sometimes, that’s not about putting myself down or increasing my insecurity…its just about accepting and realizing and allowing change to happen in its own way. Because you can’t change what you can’t acknowledge.

I got the idea last week while I was at the river that I wish I had a kayak because I love rivers and I love kayaking and I think it would be fun to have a kayak. In one week I had bought two kayaks from Craigslist. I got a great deal, gave them to my husband and I as our 15 year anniversary gift. We will use them…i know we will. But the speed with which I moved through the decision forced me to really accept this unusual aspect of my personality…I know my passion would serve me better if I can learn to manage it.

And everything is easier to manage sober, that’s just a fact.

Here’s a photo of my new kayaks.

Today, I commit to taking time out of each day to sit in nature and take deep breathes. I commit to thinking before acting…at least for a few minutes!

Baby steps.

They say when you go through something like this…sobriety or any other major life event…there are good days and bad ones. I have been through a long period of bad days and Sunday I really felt like giving up. (I didn’t, thank God.) Today…finally, it’s a good day!

YAY!

It started yesterday when I was very honest with my spouse. He is used to me being in charge and handling things. I am a total control freak so I have rarely minded it. Right now, I just don’t have it together and I need to admit that, to myself and to him. I need him to have my back. Its an uncomfortable dynamic. But I think he finally heard me and understood me. I think I was finally able to communicate myself clearly to him. It’s not fair that he should have to deal with this messy wife but it is what it is and there is no easy way out of it. I think he realized what I need and is going to work harder to support me. And I am going to stop worrying about being such a failure. It doesn’t help me to feel guilty so I just have to let that go.

Then I had lunch with a friend who is going through her own major life changes and wrestling with some of the same demons. I think it helps to hear other people talk about themselves, to see someone else shed tears that come from a place of deep sadness. It reminded me that I am not alone and that even if I am CRAZY…I am not the only CRAZY one. There is peace in that. It gets me out of my narcissism. 

And then I went and coached my son’s soccer team. I am not a very good coach and I don’t know a lot about soccer. But it’s fun and it makes him happy and my other son happy to be the assistant. Its time spent together without being stressed and with a common goal. A year ago, being the coach would have been a source of anxiety and I don’t know why its different right now. But it is and I am riding that wave and its nice.

And then the best part of yesterday…my almost 14 year old daughter (if you have read the beginning of this journey you will know that she was there on my last drinking day) noticed that I wasn’t smoking. I told her it had been over three weeks. She made eye contact, which is rare for a teenage girl, and gave me a very heartfelt hug and said, “Good job mom, that’s awesome.” And I felt about as good as I think I have ever felt. If I were a peacock my feathers would have spread out proudly behind me.  If you have ever parented a teenage girl, you know that getting love and praise from them is rare. And I have been carrying a lot of shame around from that night in Las Vegas. That hug and the sweet words was just enough forgiveness from her to help me get through another day. And while I am weeping while I write this…they are happy tears! It all feels worth it and even better, it all feels possible. I know there are bad days to come but the hope of good ones…may just be enough to carry me through.

beautifully-peacock-wallpaper-1

 

Happy Easter!

Sometimes Holidays feel like pressure for me. I know I shouldn’t feel that way but I do. I am going through a process of accepting my emotions instead of wishing them away (which doesn’t work anyway). When I say pressure I mean that I need to make sure the kids and my husband have a wonderful beautiful day and the Holiday magic is pretty much up to the mom, its just the way it is. That feels like pressure and pressure makes me want to escape.

But today started out pretty good. I hadn’t gotten enough sleep (definitely a problem lately) because I was up late putting the finishing touches on Easter, ironing outfits and stuffing eggs and hiding baskets. We woke everyone up early and encouraged them to search for their baskets. I didn’t start getting ready until later than I should have because I was busy packing for the day’s Easter festivities. I found myself becoming increasingly stressed out as I ran out of time to get myself ready for Church and the kids weren’t getting ready. Two of my three began voicing resistance to the clothes I had chosen for them for church. I argued it was one hour out of their lives, couldn’t they PLEASE wear the clothes I had chosen for them and spent an hour ironing last night. Nope, it was going to be a fight. I started to imagine myself holding their 90 pound bodies down and forcing the clothes on their bodies. But clearly, that borders on child abuse and I don’t have the energy so I blew it off. But the conflict took its toll and by the time we were in the car pulling out of the driveway, I was stressed, the kids were crabby and dad/husband was annoyed. Praise the LORD.

Church wasn’t the spiritual renewal I was hoping for. My 7 year old spent the hour rolling around on my lap and pretending to fart on his sister while I made idle threats in his ear. The pastor apparently had a lovely message that I didn’t comprehend thanks to the little squirmy ball of energy beside (actually on) me. I could feel the anxiety welling in my spirit as we drove from the church parking lot to home. We hadn’t planned to make the trip home between church and lunch but we forgot something and had to return. Upon reaching the house, I was in a state of nagging bitchiness that combined with my husbands annoyed “why can’t we just have fun together” passive aggressiveness made for the perfect storm and a fight began. I can’t remember now what it was about, that’s how important it was. We agreed to drive separate cars to the picnic and I left to pick up our contribution to the potluck. I could feel the desire to escape the overwhelming emotions welling inside me. I wanted to stick my head out the window and scream as I drove away,

“Don’t you people have any idea what I am going though here? You expect me to do too much and I can’t do it and I won’t do it. Don’t you know this is why people go away to REHAB?”

And then I cried. And fantasized that I was going to go somewhere and get a twelve pack and a few packs of cigarettes and go sit by a river somewhere and just abandon the whole stupid Easter with the family notion. I heard the tapes in my head that told me I would never be normal, that I would never be the Mom they need me to be or the wife he needs me to be and that the darned family would be better off if I simply disappeared from existence. And it sounded pretty perfect for a few minutes, it really sounded like the best solution for everyone.

And then somewhere between why don’t they understand how hard this time is for me and oh poor me, I am never going to be normal…I had a moment of clarity. And it went something like this:

Thank God they don’t understand what I am going though. My kids don’t because they are kids, they are supposed to worry about when they get to see their friends again and how long its going to take to break through to the next level in whatever video game they are currently trying to beat. They should not spend even one second of the day fretting over whether or not their mom is going to be ok and what they can do to keep her from completely losing it once and for all. Because I grew up with that, a mom who scared me with her emotional instability. (My mom has passed away and I hold NO GRUDGES against her, I am not angry and I do no blame her but the fact is, she WAS a mess when I was a kid and it is the cause of some of what is going on with me now.) So the fact that my kids don’t understand what I am going through is a GOOD thing. It means I am in fact doing something right. And keeping it together just enough to keep my kids in the dark is definitely a goal to work towards. Yay me, my kids don’t understand what I am going though.

And then the little moment of clarity voice inside my head went on to to remind me that the thing (one of the things) that drew me to the my husband in the first place was his inability to comprehend my crazy. He can’t relate. I have known this for a very long time. It was true twenty years ago and it is true now. His childhood, filled with peace and love and very little conflict did not prepare him for the likes of me and the face that he ever ended up with me is a little shocking and weird. His middle of the road, nothing upsets him, incredibly stable, emotionally even brain does not understand what I am going through. He tries to, wants to…but he doesn’t. And that is also a very good thing. Because if I had married someone more like me, it would be a very ugly mess. Its hard sometimes, not feeling understood. Its lonely. But it is the way its supposed to be. I have people who I can call and talk to if I need understanding. There are a lot of people that I have met along my journey that would drop everything to talk to me if I wanted or needed them to. I am only alone if I choose to be.

But frankly, this thing I am doing, quitting drinking and smoking…trying to find answers to the question of why I am always craving some unknown “something”…it is supposed to be HARD. Giving up my desire to escape and facing reality, it is HARD. Today was HARD and there are harder days to come.

Hey self, get used to days being hard because there are a lot more of them to come. The only thing harder than moving forward is going back…going back to the way I felt in late January. And nothing is harder than that.

NOTHING.

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