Archive | sobriety RSS feed for this section

Sober Curious? Sober Pissed

20 Dec

 

problem-2778155_640

You may have heard about the “Sober Curious” movement.  Many people are seeking out the numerous benefits of going alcohol-free (AF) and there are even bars popping up all around the country that don’t serve booze.  According to a CBS News Story (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sober-curious-alcohol-free-bars-events-changing-what-nightlife-looks-like/), “Interest in the “sober curious” community can be seen at new alcohol-free bars and events and online, with more than 1.2 million #soberlife Instagram posts and more than 500,000 #soberissexy posts.”  While the movement is growing, it has a long way to go before it comes close to the 4.2 million likes of the “Mommy Needs Vodka” Facebook personal blog (almost as many as Sobrietease—ha).

A CNN Business article from June 10, 2019 (https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/08/tech/alcohol-alternative-sober-curious/index.html) says that people who want to socialize in a “bar-like location, but without having to drink alcohol” are part of a “larger trend”.  The article claims that “people of all ages are drinking less beer, while millennials are drinking less overall.”   It seems that more and more restaurants I go to have non-alcoholic drinks, or mocktails, on their menus.  As a recovering alcoholic, it’s nice to have options other than club soda or sparkling water with lime.

Last night, I went to a holiday work dinner at a restaurant that I’ve been to before.  I looked forward to having one of the creative, non-alcoholic drinks on their menu.  As work colleagues ordered their pomegranate martinis and commented on how festive the deep pink hue was for the holiday season, I was happy to order my mint-cucumber-lime concoction.  We chatted over appetizers, ordered our entrees and as another round was requested, I asked to try a different drink from the alcohol-free selections. This one was made with blood orange juice, sage and ginger beer.  The waiter asked if I wanted that without alcohol, and I said yes, also from the alcohol-free selections.  He said “Oh, the first drink I brought you had alcohol in it.”  I froze.  As did the people seated immediately next to me as they overheard, knowing that I have been in recovery for over seven and a half years now.  I stared at him in disbelief and questioned him.  I told him, no, I had ordered one of their AF drinks.  It couldn’t be.  I just kept looking at him.  He kept a straight face and continued to tell me that it contained alcohol.  After what seemed like hours, he finally broke into a smile and said “I’m just kidding!” He winked at me.   I went from terrified to furious.  Enraged.  If I were a cartoon character, you could have seen smoke blowing out of my ears.  I was speechless.  Not wanting to make a scene at the table, all I could muster up to say to him quietly was “that was not the least bit funny.”   He collected glasses around the table and went to get the next round.  My night was ruined.  Those seated across from me and next to me were also blown away by the waiter’s absolutely idiotic joke and behavior.  I made it as long as I could and was so relieved when the night was over and I got into my car to head home.  I was still fuming when I got home and shared what happened with my husband and daughter.

I tossed and turned some during the night, not only upset about what the waiter did, but also about what I did not do.  I didn’t do anything.  I froze.  I knew that I needed to take a little time to breathe, calm down and then sit down to write a piece about it.  But I wanted to do more.  If there are so many people out there “curious” about sobriety, more needs to be done to educate them and train people in the industry.  As soon as the restaurant opened, I called and asked to speak to the manager.  To my surprise, and I’m sure a God-wink, I got a hold of the manager, a very nice guy named Dan.  I calmly explained what had happened last night, but sternly made it clear that in no uncertain terms was it the least bit funny. I explained to him that there can be many reasons why someone might order a drink from the alcohol-free options on the menu—they could be pregnant, nursing, on medication that they can’t mix with alcohol, allergic, acting as the designated driver that night, or, as in my case, an alcoholic who is already struggling to stay sober during the difficult holiday season.  In any of those scenarios, joking about accidentally serving a drink containing alcohol is just plain cruel, tasteless, stupid, moronic, dumb, idiotic, asinine, foolish, brainless, imbecilic…did I mention idiotic??  I explained that I did not ask for the manager last night or make a bigger deal of it at the table given the circumstances.  It was also not my goal to get the waiter fired right before the holidays, but instead I hoped that the establishment would focus on educating and training their entire staff to be more aware and sensitive to the severity of the issue.

Dan not only apologized but shared with me that he has 16 years of sobriety.  He was mortified that one of his servers (or anyone for that matter) would be so thoughtless.  I was assured that he would share my concerns with his full staff and make sure they know that something like this is completely unacceptable.  He thanked me for “doing the next right thing” and taking the time to call him and explain what happened.  I hung up the phone and finally exhaled.  I realized that the old me might have simply held on to this resentment for days, weeks or longer and have been afraid to use my voice since I tend to avoid confrontation whenever possible.  But, as I grow in my sobriety, I grow in my strength and self-worth.  I owed it to myself to speak my truth. While I’ll never know, I hope that perhaps taking the action I did and writing this piece may help someone else from having the same experience I had last night.

For someone who writes books and a blog called “Sobrietease”, with a tagline that says “God, Grant Me the Serenity to Laugh at Life”, which emphasizes finding humor in life whenever possible, some things are simply not joking matters.  Off-limits.  Yes, it would have been much, much worse if there actually was alcohol in that drink.  And yes, I would think that I would have tasted it if it had, but who knows.  Sober curious does NOT mean that someone is curious about throwing their 2761 days of sobriety out the window at a holiday work dinner.  Sober curious means that many people, for whatever reason, are looking into living their life without alcohol in it.  I applaud the restaurants that are offering non-alcoholic options on their bar menus. I salute the talented bartenders who indulge me in my challenge to make delicious concoctions without booze.  I thank the waitress I had in San Antonio who was smart enough to make the connection when I asked for an alcohol-free drink that she warned me which dishes and desserts on the menu contained alcohol.  And, to my waiter from last night, I hope you’ll think next time before you make a joke like that again.  I have a great book you should read….maybe I’ll drop a copy off for you.  You might learn something.

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”  e.e. cummings

 

 

 

 

Roller Coaster or Merry-Go-Round?

28 Aug

dreamstime_xxl_109892466.jpg

Today marks 7 years and 3 months of sobriety.  2648 days. 378 weeks.  What is significant about 2648 days?  Nothing.  And everything.  It represents 2648 “one-day-at a-times”.  Countless victories over temptation and cravings and thoughts of giving in. Thousands of hours of work.  Working through the ups of the “pink cloud” of sobriety, the downs of facing life on life’s terms, and everything in between.  Facing my darkest demons head-on and surviving the battles.  Learning and understanding the true meaning of humility. Training myself to let go of things that are out of my control and turn them over to my Higher Power.  Sometimes I take a moment to pat myself on the back. But I will face day 2648 today as I do every other.  Just for today, I will not pick up a drink.  One day at a time.

I often hate dealing with life on life’s terms.  I still foolishly think I can do life on my terms.  Never really works out, but yet I still try.  I can honestly say that life is a zillion times better in sobriety than it was when I was drinking.  But shit happens in life, whether you are stone-cold sober or numbing it out and fooling yourself into thinking you’ve found some sort of Nirvana-like alternate reality.  Life is hard. But life is beautiful.  In these past 7 years and 3 months, I have ridden the emotional roller coaster time and time again.  Sobriety allows you to feel ineffable joy at times.  It also gives you the presence to fully experience pain, hurt, sorrow and grief — feelings that I often tried to avoid and numb by quickly reaching for the bottle.  I can honestly say that I’d rather fully feelthe joy and the sorrow than feel nothing.

There’s a wonderful scene in the movie “Parenthood” with Steve Martin in which Grandma tells a story about riding on the roller coaster when she was younger.   She said “you know, it’s just interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited and so thrilled all together.  Some didn’t like it.  They went on the merry-go-round.  That just goes around.  Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”   Steve Martin rolls his eyes thinking Grandma is just rambling.  His wife, Mary Steenburgen, clearly understands the wisdom that she is sharing with them.  Life is much more like a roller coaster than a merry go-round.  Stay real.

Recently, my roller coaster ride included taking my oldest child to college.  I see so many posts on social media about friends dropping their kids off at school.  The excitement, the fear, and the sadness of them flying the coop, all captured in the pictures and posts.  Many of these kids I’ve known since they were babies.  How did this happen?  It honestly feels like just yesterday that I was taking my daughter to the playground to play with them.  But time flies, kids grow, and they move on.  I didn’t cry.  I was so thrilled that she seemed happy, grounded and ready to go.  I realized that’s the best I could ask for as a parent.  To prepare them to move on and be strong on their own, teach them to make smart decisions, and always listen to and trust their gut.  When I drank, I couldn’t trust my gut.  I couldn’t feel my gut.  And I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that being present now and available for my kids is a true gift of sobriety.  Whether I am at the top of the roller coaster, about to experience that thrill of the drop, or at the bottom working slowly on the climb up, I am here for them. Fully present.  Fully feeling.

The heat of the summer is coming to an end. The leaves will start falling and another season will arrive. Mother Nature’s roller coaster.  We will put the bathing suits, swim goggles and pool bags away and get out our new gear, sport our kids’ school colors and cheer at their football and lacrosse games. We will share in their triumphs and disappointments. We won’t make them stay on the merry-go-round.  We will let them ride the roller coaster.  But we will buckle them in and let them know they are loved.  And tell them to enjoy the ride.

“Raising children who are hopeful and who have the courage to be vulnerable means stepping back and letting them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves, and have the opportunity to fail. If we’re always following our children into the arena, hushing the critics, and assuring their victory, they’ll never learn that they have the ability to dare greatly on their own.” – Brene Brown, “Daring Greatly”

 

 

 

Trigger Happy

22 Jul

IMG_1047

After being sober for seven years now, I’ve learned how to deal with several of the triggers that bring out my urge to drink.  It took several years before I was able to comfortably go to social events and be surrounded by alcohol.  But I learned how to formulate a plan that would enable me to go and be with friends who drank—I would get a nonalcoholic beverage in my hand as soon as I arrived, focus on other thing besides the booze, have an excuse ready for why I wasn’t drinking, try to make conversations with people who did not breathe wine on me, and have an exit strategy for when I knew I needed to leave.   And I knew when it was time to go.  I would start staring at that glass of wine, or martini, or whatever, just a few seconds too long.  The drink devil sitting on my shoulder would start trying to tell me how good it would taste.  That it would be okay if I just had one.  Ha. Thank goodness the tools I acquired in my recovery taught me better and prepared me for how to ignore this nonsense.

There are so many triggers for me.  People, places and things that I associate with drinking.  I shared most of them in a piece I wrote called “Miss or Miss Out”. Crabs with a cold pitcher of beer.  Spicy Thai food paired with a cold glass of Viognier.  Margaritas on Cinco de Mayo.  Mint Juleps at a Kentucky Derby party.  A hearty Italian red wine with spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna.  Cold beers at a tailgate at a concert or sporting event. Hot toddies after a day of skiing.  A nice martini (with three olives) after a round of golf.  I could go on… But right now, the trigger that’s taking its aim at me is the beach.  As beautiful as it is, and as much as I enjoy it, there are few things more challenging to my sobriety than coming up from the beach at the end of the day.  The beach houses that surround me are filled with people enjoying their cocktails, cold beers, or blender drinks.  It’s like a Pavlovian response that’s hard for me to break—that walk home from the beach, washing off the sand, and reaching for a cold drink of something yummy.  To me, drinking was synonymous with the beach. Hell, drinking was synonymous with breathing, but right now we’re talking about the beach.

It’s one of those things I didn’t think about until it whacked me like a crashing wave as I walked through the sand to go back to the house in the late afternoon on our first day at Fire Island. I actually said it out loud to my daughter, telling her that I forgot how much the beach made me crave a drink.  Her incredibly thoughtful response was that we could go to the little general store and make some fun mocktails. Great idea. We did.  And the craving passed.  Sometimes just speaking it out loud takes the power out a craving.  Ice cream didn’t hurt either.

The reminders of what the alternatives would be are also quite helpful.  I’ve shared before that what often helps me the most is remembering to “think it all the way through.”  What happens after that first sip?  In addition to throwing away my 2612 days of sobriety and dealing with the shame and disappointment that would come with that, I know it wouldn’t be just one sip. Or just one drink. It would be off to the races.  And to a nasty hangover.  And not being able to enjoy watching my sons jump in the waves. Or the beautiful sunset over the water. Or the serenity that I have gained in my sobriety.

So hopefully I can add the end of the day at the beach to my list of triggers that I am now better equipped to handle. There will be many more.  But I will handle them like I do my days….one at a time.

“When we heal the wounds of our past, we move forward into our lives with an unburdened sense of self and a higher awareness of what our own triggers are.” –Athena Laz

 

 

Apprehended by Grace

22 Jun

 

woman-570883_1920

      Many people ask me what my rock bottom was. What finally made me stop drinking.  When I admitted the fact that I was an alcoholic and surrendered. I can give you a long list of when it SHOULD have been.  When friendships were torn apart. When my marriage started suffering.  When my mother and close friends expressed their concerns about how much I was drinking.  When I looked in the mirror and saw how bloated and puffy my face was and how red my eyes were.  When I started having health problems. When I was doing even more idiotic, embarrassing and shameful things than usual.  When I fell down a steep set of stairs, completely intoxicated, and should have been killed. When I continuously woke up not remembering what I had done or said the night before. Nope.  None of those things did it.

Everyone’s rock bottom is different.  I know many people in recovery who spent time in jail, received DWIs, crashed cars, lost jobs, homes, families and friends, lived on the streets or in their cars, and had much lower rock bottoms than I did.  Others, like me, had what may be considered “high bottoms”, but they are just as much alcoholic as the others.  I once heard someone say that it’s not how much you drink but how the drinking affects you that matters.  Just as there are different rock bottoms, there are different types of alcoholics. Binge drinkers. Daily drinkers. Maintenance drinkers.  Bar drinkers.  Isolation drinkers.  Social drinkers.  Heck, I even went to college with a girl named Margarita Drinker. No lie. Her parents had quite a sense of humor, I guess.  Or named her after having a bit too much tequila themselves.  But I digress…

The point is that there is no singular description of the alcoholic.  No scale that tells you once you fall below a certain level, you have hit your rock bottom. It is different for everyone.  But at some moment, at some point, many people are somehow, and perhaps miraculously, apprehended by grace. I believe that is the moment when people finally surrender.  It may be in utter despair.  It may be when you realize you are simply sick and tired of being sick and tired. It may be while looking in the mirror and not able to face the person look back at you any longer. It may be after fighting back and resisting, be it an intervention, attending a recovery program as a “guest of the judge”, while at rehab or in the pscyh ward, or while dishing out your last dollar at the liquor store.  However it comes, it is when you finally realize and accept that you cannot continue to live your life like this.  That you cannot fight this battle alone.  That only power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity.  It is when you wave the white flag and surrender to your Higher Power, whatever that may be for you, and at that moment, I believe that you are apprehended by grace.

 For me, my surrender came seven years ago in NYC. I’ve shared the story many times.  My hands were shaking until I got a drink in me at 11am. I was a mess, physically and emotionally.  Looked and felt horrible.  I had known for so long that I could not continue drinking the way I had been, but I could not imagine my life without alcohol.  It dominated every aspect of my life. Hell, it was my life.  It was both my best friend and my worst enemy.  How do you fight your worst enemy or get rid of them while losing your best friend at the same time? But as I sat there with my true best friend who lost her husband to alcoholism, I was, in fact, miraculously apprehended by grace, and I was finally able to admit that I had a drinking problem.  It was as if a 3,000-pound weight was lifted from my shoulders.

I believe that being apprehended by grace goes hand in hand with receiving the gift of humility.  To accept and realize that we are only human, that we cannot fix everything, including ourselves, and come to understand that our Higher Power can is a true blessing.  We somehow grasp that not only can we turn things over, we must. One of the definitions of grace is the “free and unmerited favor of God”.  Free. Unmerited.  We don’t need to do anything to earn it or receive it.  We simply need to be willing to ask.  And surrender.  To allow ourselves to be apprehended by grace.

Because we are human, we can forget.  We can stray. We can try to escape after having been apprehended.  Foolishly. But yet we still do it.  Staying on the right track, whatever that looks like for you, can keep you living a life of grace.  It may be prayer, meditation, working a recovery program, or however you continuously remind yourself to rely on and turn to your Higher Power.

I am so incredibly grateful to have been apprehended by grace. To have found the path to a better life. Free from the bondage of addiction. It doesn’t come easy many days, but if I remember to practice what I preach, to turn things over to my Higher Power and stay humble, it gets easier to find my way back to the right path.

For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.” –Saint Augustine of Hippo

“Grace comes into the soul, as the morning sun into the world; first a dawning, then a light; and at last the sun in his full and excellent brightness.”-     Thomas Adams

“The meaning of life.  The wasted years of life.  The poor choices of life.  God answers the mess of life with one word:  ‘Grace,’” Max Lucado

Squirrelly About Seven

24 May

didyouknowst

It usually happens to some extent every year.  A little before the anniversary of my sobriety date, I get squirrelly.  I get anxious.  Restless, irritable and discontent.  Excited but scared.  Proud but cautious.  This year seems worse than previous ones.  Maybe it’s the number 7.  Seven seas. Seven continents.  Seven days of the week.  Seven colors of the rainbow. Seven years of sobriety, God-willing, on May 28th. Many people would say I shouldn’t even write that and risk jinxing myself. But I do. Because it’s an important date. It’s the day my life changed for the better.

So why squirrelly? Why anxious?  Do I want to pick up a drink?  No.  Have I thought about it?  Many times. It’s a bittersweet weekend for me. Memorial Day weekend in 2012 was the last time I drank.  And I drank a lot.  And then some.  My hands shook at 11 am until I got some wine in me.  The weekend ended with me admitting that I was powerless over alcohol.  That my life had become unmanageable.  I made the decision to get help and it was the best thing I have ever done.  It was hard as hell, but 2553 days later, I have not had a drink.  I had that scare I wrote about in my last post (A Sip Not a Slip), when I accidentally picked up a drink with vodka in it, but I have not intentionally picked up a drink in a long, long time.

From what I have learned over these past nearly 7 years, my squirrelly feelings are quite common among people in recovery.  There’s something about facing the anniversary of the last drink that brings up a lot.  I look at the weekend ahead, which will be filled with those #^%@#& red Solo cups at pools, backyard barbeques, parties, etc.  Coolers filled with cold beer.  Wine glasses with beads of sweat dripping down the side.  And more.  And then I think about making it through the weekend to Tuesday.  And about reaching another milestone in this personal battle.  And I think about how much better my life is without the booze.  Without the hangovers.  Without the blackouts.  Without the poison that took its toll on my body.

Don’t get me wrong…life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows just because I don’t drink.  The shitstorms still come, and if you looked at the Doppler radar in my life right now, you’d see a huge storm raging right above me that’s not clearing for quite some time.  But, as I’ve heard repeatedly, there’s no problem that picking up a drink won’t make worse.  Jose Cuervo has no power over the storm clouds. But my Higher Power does. Sometimes I write what I need to read, hear, and remind myself.

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try and do the right thing, the dawn will come.  You wait and watch and work:  you don’t give up.”– Anne Lamott

A Sip Not a Slip

9 May

8c8a2e1df12408c0bfd57a7c6ad3a3b2

I had absolutely no intention of putting a glass of vodka mixed with cranberry juice to my mouth.  No desire to have it touch my lips and wash against my tongue.  In fact, when it did, my reaction was so strong, it surprised me.  I immediately recognized that it was not my drink (cranberry juice and club soda) and once I realized that there was a strong amount of alcohol in the drink that I picked up, I turned away from the two women standing next to me and spit it out.  And spit again.  And again. And I think wiped my tongue with my sleeve.  And then wiped my lips.  Repeatedly.  I have not had a drink that contained alcohol in nearly 7 years (2537 days to be exact). What used to be so familiar to me was now a very, very unwelcome stranger.

I’m pretty sure I simply said “Well, that was not my drink!”  The woman whose drink I accidentally picked up apologized profusely.  She knew I didn’t drink. Totally not her fault.  The drinks looked identical. Both had lime garnishes. Both a pinkish-red hue from the cranberry juice. But one had an ingredient that was clearly not okay for an alcoholic. I walked away to return to the work event I was attending. The other woman, a good friend of mine, came over to me and asked if I was okay.  I told her that I was more than a little freaked out at having picked up an alcoholic drink.  She told me not to be too hard on myself, not to give it a second thought, since I clearly hadn’t done it on purpose.  I let it go…for the time being.

When I got in my car, I picked up my phone to call a friend who is also in recovery.  But then I hesitated.  For a few seconds, I worried that if I told her what had happened, should would tell me I should reset my start date and begin again at day one. So I thought about not telling her.  I think that scared me more than picking up the drink.  Sobriety requires “rigorous honesty”.  Keeping a secret about something that clearly bothered me, considerably, was not a good plan.  It doesn’t matter that other people may think it was totally innocent, no big deal, that I was overreacting, whatever.  The fact was that I was more than a little flustered about tasting vodka again, even for a split second.  I dialed the number and told her what happened. She told me it had happened to her, several times, that it was okay, clearly not intentional, that I didn’t fake it and swallow it and continue to drink the wrong drink, and that I did the right thing. She said it was a “sip, not a slip.”  I felt much better.

As Elvis Costello will tell you, accidents will happen. Chances are good that something like that will happen again. I’m actually quite glad that my reaction was so strong.  That I didn’t taste the vodka and feel like I missed it and wanted more. I’m grateful that I woke up today with another day of sobriety under my belt.  Grateful to wake up without a hangover. Grateful it was a sip, not a slip.

“There are no accidents…there is only some purpose that we haven’t yet understood.”-Ritu Ghatourey

 

 

%d bloggers like this: