Some possible missions

I was talking to a friend the other day, about sobriety and breakups and other things that feel like getting punched in the guts. We were comparing “what have YOU done sober” stories. I have gone to more weddings sober than him, but he has gone on road trips with friends sober, while they were drinking, which I thought was impressive. He was amazed that I had traveled to Europe sober, and I was in awe of how he was going through a break-up without booze. It felt like we were comparing badges of honor. We were stocking up on sober experience, to make it to the next level. We were going on these impossible missions, and coming back alive. So now I’m thinking about sobriety as a series of missions. The question we ask ourselves is “Am I going to be able to make it through this xx without drinking?” and even if we’re feeling confident that we can do that it’s like “What will it be like doing xx sober?”

I will admit that viewing sobriety like a video game may feel like I’m trivializing the emotional energy this whole thing takes. I’ve been sober for two years, and last night I had to get up and walk around my dark house, breathing, remembering that I was here now, because I was running “here’s how life would be different if I had quit sooner” scenarios through my head. Then I went to sleep and had a drinking dream. That’s just a note to say that I still feel it, and it rarely feels light. But. This mindset around specific activities being missions on this crazy sobriety journey, I like.

I don’t know if you’re sober, or you’re a little curious about the sober thing, or if you’re my mom and you read all of my blog posts just to make sure I’m OK. Regardless, you’re doing hard things all of the time, and I bet you feel like it’s all normal and you don’t deserve to celebrate it. You’re an adult, and of course you should be able to xx. You should be able to go to a Christmas party where you’re ex will be, and you may additionally think you should be able to do that sober. Sure. You totally can. But that doesn’t mean that the loosely tied sober community out here doesn’t think you are goddamn amazing for doing so, and I bet there is a member of your current support system who would like to have the chance to congratulate you on doing that hard thing. It’s easy to forget, especially in sobriety, that you’re facing hard things head on, and it’s making you stronger. Every sober wedding, every sober trip, date, fight, lonely night, hard day at work, every SINGLE day you get out there and did what is hard to you, is a mission completed. And in theory, at least in my experience, knowing I can do that thing one time makes it easier the next time.

I got married about a month ago. I asked that there not be alcohol at the wedding, for one because it was at 10am, but also because large groups (40 people is large, OK?) plus booze make me feel anxious. I didn’t think of drinking once- we had so much coffee…it was dreamy. I felt like asking for that and feeling confident that my guests wouldn’t be terribly annoyed with their weirdo sober friend was a mission in itself. However, if I hadn’t done all of the mini-missions before that, like a sober bachelorette party, drinking sparkling juice the night we got engaged, celebrating with friends over tea, and on and on, this sober wedding mission may have felt impossible. It didn’t. There were moments, but I got through it. It’s pretty much the best surprise ever then, when the hard thing becomes enjoyable. That is undoubtedly some next level shit.

What kinds of missions are you going on? Does it feel easier every time or not? Tell me! I’m always interested in what you’re figuring out along the way. Keep up the good work, friends.

xo

Before and happily ever after

Oh hi, here’s me!

There’s this non-profit I like, Big Vision NYC, and they’re doing great stuff in the substance abuse space. They asked me to share a bit of my own story, and a “before and after picture”, for their social media pages. My first thought was “Aw, shucks, y’all!” and my next thought was “I don’t want people to see drunk pictures of me” and then my chest started to feel a little smooshed under the weight of feels, so I took a minute to think. When my chest feels crushed, there’s usually some truth hiding beneath the surface, asking for a way out. So I started digging.

I started looking through old photos. I lost my phone a million times in my 20s, so the photos I still have are the ones I chose to share on Instagram. I took a trip back in time, seeing a photo and remembering the story. There’s me, drinking white wine at a wedding, but there is no photo of the cut on my nose that I got when I tripped, blackout drunk, onto my face later in the night. There’s the photo of me looking skinny and blonde in NYC, sipping a cocktail on my birthday. There aren’t photos of me fighting and crying with my ex, again in a state of drunken confusion to the point where I was scared of how confused I was. There were also a lot of happy photos, because I was happy. As my drinking got worse, I still felt happy sometimes. I just felt anxious and scared more of the time. I realized a few things looking at these old photos:

You can’t tell from someone’s social media posts whether or not they have a substance abuse problem. Not that it’s your business, but it does create a false reality in your mind. If you’re struggling, and don’t see anyone around you struggling, that loneliness can make the idea of quitting even harder. But believe me: they’re out there. We’re out there. Our pictures might not tell the whole story though.

2. I didn’t realize how happy I could be. Back then, I would have told you that I was fine. I wished that I didn’t get so drunk, but otherwise, fine. Then the drinking was not fine, and it had to go. And then things were hard, and I doubted that this quitting was even a good idea. Until it was more than fine. Until I was able to do so much more, and feel so much healthier, and wake up feeling like I was 100 percent high on some clean drug that turned out to just be how you can feel when you stop drinking. Who knew? Not me.

3. Sobriety looks different for everyone. Honestly. You get to take your true self, and find out what it needs to be happy and at peace and then you just get to do it. It’s nuts. So if my pictures look different than yours, that’s good! That means you’re doing things in a way that feels genuine for you. I’m always working towards that, and away from that desire to compare myself to others. It’s such constant work for me.

I found a picture from my 30th birthday. I’m sitting on the floor, with my dog, drinking champagne from the bottle. It wasn’t a tragic night, and nothing awful happened. But looking back on it, I see a girl who is letting life happen to her. She doesn’t even know how good it could be. She doesn’t know that she can say no to the bullshit that she’s letting in. Then I saw an “after” picture is me, 4 years later, and I can see the peace in my eyes. Other people may not be able to, which is why this feels important to write about, chest-crushing feeling or not.

One final thought: If sobriety is a new idea that you’re throwing around, I suggest jumping in and finding out what speaks to you. It might be before and after pictures, it might be stories, or memoirs. Or scientific studies, or AA, or something cool like emailing me and asking me a zillion questions. No shame, just you letting yourself get what you need to start a new chapter. For me, it’s the best part of my story yet.

NA craft beer: Is it the devil or nah?

When I quit drinking about a year and half ago, I tried drinking NA beers a couple of times and they just made me sad. I did not understand why anyone would drink these, unless they wanted to advertise their drinking problem in social situations. It got me through a few uncomfortable parties, where I felt like I needed a beer in my hand.  And then I was kind of over it. I left the NA beer in my past, and continued on a path that went from drinking GIANT caffeine-free Diet Cokes while doing my midnight grocery store shopping on Friday nights, to WAY TOO MUCH COFFEE to more herbal tea then I ever, ever thought I would consume. Perhaps one day, a beverage in hand will not be a comfort to me, but for now, it is. I’ve cut back on my coffee drinking, but will still stop for one if I’m on my way to something that makes me nervous. Old habits die hard, I’m not perfect, but I’m not drinking booze, and that is the key here.

Now let’s talk about the NA beer I had last weekend. I had been following some people online, in the UK, who were promoting a Mindful Drinking Festival. It looked like a dream. Bunches of beautiful, smiling people, drinking and eating and talking and buying things, without alcohol. It felt like a celebration of not drinking alcohol. This was shocking to me. To be so fully on board with not drinking, but not treating it like a consolation life.  This. This is what I wanted. There were breweries that made NA beers and spirits and things that looked pretty in bottles. I was giddy.  Did we have these here? Like, not O’Doul’s? I went to the fanciest beer store I could find, and low and behold, there it was: a 6-pack of NA beer, made by a local brewery. It was so expensive. I bought it. I brought them to a party. I showed everyone. I didn’t care that everyone I met that night might have thought I was a crazy alcoholic. It tasted like a freaking craft beer. I took the rest home and put them happily next to my boyfriend’s real beers.  I got to have a thing that I liked, that I hadn’t been allowed to have for so long! Then my mind went in a different direction: Is this cheating?

That’s the question I spun around in my mind. I read other people’s opinions on the subject. Yep, it’s controversial. For sure taboo for some. Many see it as a gateway. Many see it as a safe alternative.  Then I read something that stopped my spinning and gave me a new question to ask: Is this going to keep you from staying sober? Simple. That’s the question, isn’t it? This whole sobriety journey, at it’s root, is about getting sober and staying sober. At least, that’s what it’s about for me. I don’t question the choice, because I know in my heart that it’s the right one for me, and it keeps proving itself. So will drinking an NA beer keep me from staying sober? Will it make it harder for me to stay sober? That’s important too, because I got through some really hard times where I had to fight daily to not slip back into my old routine with alcohol. I don’t feel like I’m fighting as hard these days. Will this taste of the past make me think about drinking more, think about how it could be, maybe I could just have one real beer every now and then? That line of thinking honestly just made me recoil from my computer a little. Which is pretty much how I got my answer: The idea of drinking again makes me feel sick. As someone brilliant wrote (who wrote this? help!) I don’t want to have to miss all of this. Drinking means I lose what I have, and I love what I have, where I am, who I’m with, and what I give. No freaking way. And if I drank something or was with someone or went somewhere that made me reconsider sobriety, I hope I would run away screaming.

So right now, for me, I’m pro-NA beer. As long as it’s delicious. Meaning that there is currently only one, expensive NA beer in town that I want to drink one 12 ounce bottle of every now and then.  Maybe that’s the way some people feel about booze? I’ll never know. And that’s fine. I have caffeine free Diet Coke big gulps and coffee and herbal tea, and a life that I want, desperately.

I will continue using that question to guide me: Is this thing keeping me from staying sober? Because this choice is bigger than the tastiness of a NA beer. I’ll kick it to the curb if it gets in my way. And, of course, I’ll tell you all about it.

Traveling sober: Nashville

I went to Nashville and all I got was a gaudy, blingy half marathon metal and alone time with my boyfriend! OH WAIT. I like that stuff.

The things I didn’t get: in a fight on the street with my boyfriend, a hangover, or PADS, an abbreviation my friends and I had for a made-up hangover disease, post alcohol depression syndrome, before I knew that was a real thing alcohol did to your body. I didn’t lose anything. I didn’t break anything. I only cried once, and that was when I crossed the finish line, after running for 13 miles. I ate ice cream in bed, but not because it was the only thing my hungover body could keep down. I was just pleasantly tired from the yoga class we went to, and my body told me that the next obvious step in this magical day was to eat treats in bed.

I promise that I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, especially people who still drink. Most of the people I love drink. The truth is, I’m writing in the car, on this 8 hour trip home, full of anxiety, because life is still waiting for you when you get home from vacation. I spend mental energy, trying to figure out how to be calm when I just want to scream. I wrestle with the future, and the things I think I missed out, and the things I’m scared I won’t experience. So don’t worry. I’m still a human. I just don’t drink. But that has been everything. It’s been more than I thought it would be. It was the quickest way to cut the bullshit in my life in half. There’s still bullshit, and I still get in my own way, and I still learn through trial and error every single day. So totally human. Just not a human with a drinking problem. Still a human who wants to go on vacation though. So. How did I go to Nashville and have the best time you can have in 48 hours? I tried stuff, and found some things that worked. Here’s what I liked:

  • I went to bed early and got up early. Party animal, right? When I say get up early, I mean, got up early to make tea and coffee and got back in bed. When you are drunk, you pass out and do not appreciate delicious beds. When you are sober, you can wake up and smash your face all over the dreamy cloud that is the bed you are paying to sleep in and it does not make your head ring. Find a good hotel/airbnb and make sure that bed is rad. Then make a nest and get up in that shit. So good. You can also walk around town before everyone else, get your explore on, and eat meals at odd times to avoid a rush.
  • Exercise in a new place is more fun than at home. Try a yoga/trampoline/sport thing that you wouldn’t try at home. 20 bucks for a class is like 2 cocktails worth of dollars. If you were able to do that, you can go to the fancy ass barre studio.
  • Energy for travel. Less booze means more energy. When I got sober, I realized that travel makes me nervous. I didn’t know that, because I would just drink when I traveled, because drunkeness and hangovers were comforting in their familiarity. A weird sense of unease is harder to define, but once I accepted that the first night of a trip has me feeling bizarre, I was able to be ok with it. The first night in Nashville, we holed up in our room and played a board game, and I didn’t worry that I was missing out on something. Did you ever drink because you were supposed to be having fun, but then you don’t really get drunk or you just sort of feel gross and wake up feeling shitty and tired either way? Yeah, me neither….haha just kidding, I’ve felt that way like a million times. No more though, and I’ve never missed it.
  • More time, money, and calories for spending on ice cream. Or whatever. Vegan queso. A steak. If you do not worry about your caloric intake, good for you. Please tell me how you do that. I do, and therefore appreciate the feeling I have found in sobriety of more ease in my body when I’m out eating ice cream if I didn’t drink a days worth of calories in wine the night before. My body is all about those ice cream on vacation calories.
  • I remember every damn thing we did. I remember every sweet look from my boyfriend. I have the patience to walk around the art museum and listen to a guided audio tour, because I am not thinking about when we’re going to the next bar. I make nicer memories now.

 

If there’s one thing I’ve found out about sobriety and travel is that you might just have to flip everything on it’s head. You might just not do things that center around drinking. Bars are just places to drink to me now, I don’t go to them, and it’s not sad. I don’t feel sad when I pass a dive bar, and see a cute girl giggling with her boyfriend, bar stools scooched up close to each other. I used to, but I don’t now, and so I’m telling you, in case you’re on the other side of that kind of longing. It’s hard to see things you think you might miss in sobriety. I promise there’s more over here though. Nashville, Paris, Chicago, Dublin…these places I’ve been since I quit, I realize that I wasn’t giving them enough credit. They’re more than enough without alchohol. Just like you. Just like me. Let’s keep exploring. I feel like there’s a whole new world out there.