Wednesday, 7 January 2015

One year sober!!!

Yesterday was my 365th day in a row without booze. By now it's a habit, of course, just as drinking far too much was a habit for so long. A year ago yesterday,  I woke up early and planned to quit that day. But I had a day off, and instead I went for a long walk and bought wine, and came home and drank some. Nothing dramatic happened. I'd quit the previous summer, and then tried drinking again after four months away, and it was obvious to me that it mostly wasn't working. Nothing terrible was happening to me. Still, I was miserable. And I knew I'd felt better when I wasn't drinking, before that siren song called me back yet again. The next day, I woke up with the same idea. And that day, a year ago, I really did quit. It stared out as a modest plan: one week, no booze. But I'm still here and I'm staying.

These days booze has no appeal for me. I can't stand the smell any more. I have no interest in the fuzzy mind I know I'd have if I drank. I've figured out how to make interesting drinks that are so good, sometimes the drinkers wan to try one instead of having wine or beer. At this point, no one could convince me that drinking was a good idea. No matter what.

When I was thinking about quitting, I strongly resisted the idea that I had been somehow escaping from life by drinking. Now I see that I was. And I resisted the received wisdom that I would find myself changing once I quit, that without booze, I would change emotionally. But I did. I wasn't interested in most of what people had to say about recovery, and I was always ready to rail against talk about "alcoholism" or "addiction." But I've found that some of it applies to me, and some of it is helpful, and the rest just doesn't bother me any more.

I used to do too much of my thinking about quitting in the abstract, impersonal mode. Eventually, I found that didn't help me much. Instead, this time, I paid attention to myself--what worked for me, what didn't, how I felt, what I thought might help me get through the next minute or hour or day. Mostly I read lots and wrote lots and walked in the park and rode my bike and talked to my partner way, way too much about how it was all going. I fulfilled my school and work obligations, but for the first few months, I wasn't exactly a star in either domain. It didn't matter. When I started to feel stronger, I was able to do more, but I took my time.

A lot of the advice people gave didn't work for me. I tried the whole "treats" thing that gets talked about, but I never did get the hang of it. I did buy myself a lot of books, but only when I saw one I thought I might read, never as a reward for anything. I developed a fondness for the gluten-free carrot cake at the local bakery, and had to put myself on rations on that score. (Once a week is fine. Twice if I'm on a big deadline. Any more than that, I figure I'm just escaping into cake instead of booze, and I eat some yoghurt with honey instead. Which isn't so bad, you know!)

This was supposed to be a big happy celebratory post about how happy I am to be sober, and here I am writing about what didn't work for me! What gives? The thing is, I am happy. I feel a whole lot better without booze in my life. My mental health is better (and it was really pretty darn bad a year ago). I avoid doctors, but I think I'm physically healthier. (I hardly ever get colds now, and I didn't get my annual December bronchitis, but winter isn't done yet!) I used to be pretty twisted up with anxiety, but these days I feel so much more clear and calm, and even when I do get anxious, I work it out without spiralling into the Pit of Despair. It's not all perfect all of a sudden, and it's been a lot of work. But I am figuring out how to live in the world, and I sometimes even feel at home here. That's new to me, and I'm holding onto it.

I guess what I wanted to say was that most of what I thought about getting sober was wrong, and a lot of what I believed about it when I started didn't much matter. But I was able to figure it out as I went, day to day, by being attentive to myself, and listening to others, and by leaning very hard on the support of the fine folks online who read and comment and write their own stories about getting sober, or trying to get sober. We're all in this together, and what a beautiful thing that is. Just a whole lot of people who used to drink too much, finding a better way to live without booze. Thanks for all your help and support and humour and friendship. I'm deeply grateful for it all, and for my life. It's been a great year. Tough, but worthwhile, and often wonderful.

Peace and joy to you. And many thanks. xo

31 comments:

  1. Has it been a year already???!!!! OMG! Congratulations! And I do think it's very cool that we have the same sober birthday!

    I think I probably said this in a couple of comments to your blog this year that I believe we each have to find our own path to sobriety. Many of us don't fit the stereotypical drunk profile so we resist words like alcoholism and formal organizations like AA.

    But we know that alcohol is getting in the way of real life and so we quit. I wandered around trying a little of this and a little of that until I hit on the perfect combination to get and keep me sober. My philosophy was that if it worked, it was for me.

    You should be so stinking proud of yourself! Your posts have always been so honest and I know they help a lot of people out here in blogging land. They show that there's no "right" way to be sober and that you can reach the land of happy as long as you just don't pick up a glass of booze. And however you get there is okay.

    Bravo!!!

    Sherry

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Sherry. Finding our own ways is what we're all doing here. Thanks to you for helping show me how that's done. xo

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  2. Oh tra la! Lovely. It feels good to have that solid year. I know just what you mean about hey this is supposed to be a happy celebration and instead I'm doing all this reflection? What the? we just can't help it, can we? But god, we're thinking. Thinking and then thinking instead of drinking. I'm finding that most of what I know about lots of things is not what I thought. That I change a little every day- that I like red pants this year and then now I just can't imagine. I'm learning to be OK with that- being OK with the me I am today. You are such a graceful wondrous sober woman. I am thankful to share this journey (why do I not like that word?) with you. Your friendship is such a gift to me. xxxooo WOOT WOOT ONE YEAR!!!!!!!

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    1. Thanks, Amy. I'm grateful for your friendship, too. This thinking and changing is funny business, though, isn't it? I'm getting more used to it, less inclined to think I know who I am (if I ever even thought that) and more inclined to enjoy being open to what's happening. Lovely to see you here. Thanks for your kind words, as always. xo

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  3. Hugest of huge congratulations, sorry I'm a day late or so! But a year and two days amazing!!!

    :)

    I found you post utterly inspirational and that last paragraph particularly poignant for me. Thank you for taking time to share with me too and help me on my journey too.

    Hugest hugest of hugs to you and well done! x

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    1. Daisy, thanks for dropping by! I'm glad to have inspired you, even a little. I love your blog, so the inspiration goes both ways! Glad you're keeping it fierce and doing so well. xo

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  4. Great post! Huzzah for one whole year!

    I would absolutely concur that this path is nothing like I thought it would be. I thought that I had my life pretty much 'under control' except for this one aberration that I needed to resolve. whereas in fact when I removed the alcohol all the little loose ends started to wave about in the breeze....

    the fact is that an alcohol-removed life has more space in it. more space for joy, thought, and calm. as you say, I would never, ever go back now. and that has also been a revelation to me, when I anticipated that I would feel eternally deprived.

    I read this recently in Mary Oliver's Red Bird. do you know it? your post brought it to my mind, so if not it can be my soberversary gift to you!

    'Instructions for living a life.
    Pay attention.
    Be astonished.
    Tell about it.'

    I am so glad we are paying attention to ourselves now. The astonishment grows greater every day. I look forward to hearing you tell about it as you move on into more new days! Prim xxx

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    1. Thanks for your good wishes, Prim, and for the delightful bit of Mary Oliver poetry. Present gratefully accepted! I'm really glad there are other fine people here doing this same thing, removing the alcohol and paying attention and finding out after all that the life we have been hiding out from is marvellous. Thanks for being here. xo

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  5. Congratulations on 1 year! I love to hear these milestones! I just passed 8 months and sometimes can't believe the time that has passed. I am likewise amazed by this community online and loved your description: "Just a whole lot of people who used to drink too much, finding a better way to live without booze. Thanks for all your help and support and humour and friendship." Cheers to you and the blogosphere! Viatoday

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, and congrats to you on 8 months! I really appreciate your good wishes. And I'm glad you've also found the online community to be a source of support and friendship. xo

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  6. Congratulations! I am 18 days and your 365 days is so inspiring! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you're doing well and feeling inspired. xo

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  7. Lady! So so happy for you. I love that your post is about more than just YAY I am a year sober :) It's great to know how people feel and that we are ALL different. Not everything works but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong you or anyone else. Life is amazing in its multiplicity. Congrats on a year :)

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca! Yes, we are all different and all here alive and life is amazing! The wonder of it all can blow me away at times. Thanks for being here. xo

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  8. Congratulations! Getting into that kind of finish line is indeed such a relief. However, most importantly, that is a way forward, because you have definitely shaped your modalities in life and overturned it, which is always a good thing. Here's to an even more sober 2015 and beyond. All the best to you! :)

    Donnie Benson @ Midwest Institute for Addiction

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    1. Hi Donnie. Thanks for your kind words. I really appreciate you dropping by and adding your support. All the best to you, too! xo

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  9. Thank you. I was starting to feel hopeless, like I've tried everything, including that four month thing, I got to 121 and still the desire hadn't gone and I really believed it would have gone away by then, it was soooo disheartening, and the treats that, well, I just get what I want when I want it, I never got the hang of that. Eventually I just gave up completely, some time in November I think when it felt like everything I touched turned to... well, you know, not gold. I was doing dry January. I thought at least a break would help give me space to think, but my husband is still dry and a few days ago when I had the nerve to think I'd got it licked... I feel lousy today, ashamed and tired and angry with myself, dreading another day one. What's the point I thought. But you got to 365 by starting with day 1 and you really don't want it anymore. That thing about figuring out what works for you... that's the tricksy bit isn't it? Deep breath over here, and endless admiration beaming your way.

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    1. Hi KT. If anything I said is helpful at all, then you are very welcome. Figuring out what works is tricky, because people (including me!) have plenty of helpful advice but what works for one sometimes doesn't for the next, Not drinking, no matter what, and getting help from someone when you feel like wobbling on that, that's about the only thing I think helps. Anyway, thanks for the admiration. I'm rooting for you here, too! xo

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  10. Dear Thirsty,
    Wow! Way to go on a year!
    I think in the end we have to figure it out on our own.
    I too found a huge support on-line!

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    1. Thanks, Untipsy! We're all here helping each other. Isn't that grand! xo

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  11. Many congrats from a fellow friend on the journey from Minnesota! (Minne-sober?) :) Peace!!

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    1. Thanks, Daniel! I hope winter in Minnesota is being kind to you. xo

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  12. Congratulations! Love hearing how you feel at one year sober. Wine still smells good to me!

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    1. Thanks! It's good to feel pretty darn good about all this. And I'm relieved that the wine doesn't smell good to me anymore, but I guess that one doesn't apply to everyone. I'm glad you're doing well, too! xo

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  13. Wow congratulations on a year, and for figuring out what works for you!

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    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement! xo

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  14. What an accomplishment - good for you. And remind yourself that your post is an inspiration to others including me.

    I'm on Day 25 of the 100 Day Challenge; however, sobriety is providing me with way too many positives for me to go back to what my life was like before. That said, I do face the temptation to try moderate drinking. Your post has inspired me to not take that route.

    What non-alcoholic drinks can you recommend? I'm tiring of cranberry and soda!

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    1. Thanks for visiting and for your kind words. Day 25 is fantastic! Being sober is great, though in the beginning it takes some resolve to stick with it. Good for you for doing that.

      As far as good drinks go, I make my own, and I make lots of kinds. Usually I use a little fruit juice, a little cold tea (often herbal, but not always) and some sparkling water. One favourite is about an ounce of black cherry juice, a couple of ounces of moroccan mint tea (mint with chai spices, kind of) and a few ounces of sparkling water. I play with recipes and probably never make the same exact thing twice, so it's kind of fun. Give it a try, and let me know how it goes! Best wishes. xo

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  15. Congratulations! I have been reading a few of your posts and I think we might actually be the same person :) i am so happy for you and aspire to be able to say that one day.

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  16. I just noticed this entire site. One year sober a week away. I can't believe it yet emotions are new and raw to me. Ups and downs are my new way of life right now. Right sizing my ship so to speak.Congratulations! Turning the Titanic around is huge. Keep turning don't stop!

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    1. Congrats to you, too! Let me know if you have a bog so I can keep up with how you're doing. Turning the ship is a great analogy for this big change we're making. xo

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