Saturday 24 August 2013

A few good things

I'm working tonight, and a woman just told me she quit journalling because she didn't want to reminded about how much her life sucked. Sometimes I do that too, just write about the things that aren't going well and then forget about jotting them down when they are. So here goes, some notes about a few things that are going well these days:

1. I look better. I'm not vain, but I'm vain, you know? I know this sounds superficial, but it matters. This past week, several people have asked me what I was doing different. I'm not super public about quitting drinking, because most people wouldn't have known I drank a lot in the first place. But I do look healthier. My face isn't puffy. My eyes aren't red. I've lost a few pounds, but it's more that I don't have that blown up look that booze gives. An old guy who comes into work, he used to be a big drinker, and I think he clocked what's going on. The other day he gave me a knowing smile and said, "Looks like you're taking good care of yourself. It suits you." I would have thought that would be embarrassing--what, did I look like crap before? (Ah, yes, actually.) I just  said thanks, and he said, "Keep it up."

2. I feel calmer. A few weeks ago I wrote about rage. Oh man, was I angry a lot. And now I'm just not. I still get overwhelmed sometimes. At home the other morning, I managed to knock a cup of coffee all over a library book and a stack of magazines, costing me the price of the library book and making me late for work because I had to sop it all up before I left. And then I was late for work without even having had a coffee. All that and I was calm. That would never have happened when I was drinking lots. Never.

3. My mind is clearer. This coming year I have a lot going on. I have to write a thesis, apply for grad schools, write the GRE. All stuff people mostly do when they're younger. I had been feeling swamped by it all, and now I'm not. It's still a lot to do, don't get me wrong. But it's not as scary, not as insurmountable. I'll do what I can with it, and see how it all goes.

4. I'm less worried about how I explain not drinking to other people. I'm not completely comfortable with this one. This coming week, my partner and I are going to visit his parents for a few days. They like wine, and we have always had long lingering dinners with multiple glasses. This time I won't. I'm not sure what I'll say yet, but I don't think I need to make any big explanation. I'll just make sure I have fizzy water and lime on hand, and I expect there won't be much drama about it at all.

5. I  sleep a lot. I sleep like a log for nine or ten hours many nights. How is this possible? I thought quitting drinking would mean I'd have whacks of time. I'd be up with the birds. No such luck. Probably it's healing sleep or something, I don't know. But I have tons of energy when I am awake, so I'm counting it as good.

OK, that's enough with the list. Everything I've said is true, but it doesn't really capture it. I feel more like myself, and I feel like a new person. I had no idea how much better life would be without drinking. No, it's not perfect, and things are still hard, but there's an enormous difference, and no amount of me trying to enumerate what  that difference is seems to capture it. Whatever it is, I'm pretty darn grateful. Today I'm 50 days sober. Hooray for that!

Thursday 22 August 2013

Balance, round 2

Yesterday was rough. I tried to do too much but couldn't, then tried thinking about balance and congratulated myself for dropping one small plan out of a still too busy day. I was surprised to find myself cranky and tired with a full-on tension headache all day. By the time I got home from work, I was weepy. Wine would have handily shifted that mood for me, and I was feeling mighty sorry for myself that I couldn't indulge and just check out for a few hours. I ended up whinging to my partner about my sorry self, and then eating some yoghurt and drinking some sparking water. Then I felt OK, and it was late, and so I went to bed.

What is this check out thing, anyway? I hear other people talking about it, and for me it's one of the big things I got out of drinking. I know that. I knew that even when I was drinking lots. The other day I wrote a long post about that, called "Get me out of here," but I worried it sounded too unstable and deleted it without posting. Lucky for me, a day or two later Amy at Soberbia said more or less what I was thinking, except that she said it with more charm and wit, and she offered some way out that I hadn't seen. (Thanks, Amy.) So I see that getting out of my head is part of what I do, drinking or not. But where else can you go?

Part of the balance I think I need is to accept myself as I am, and that includes accepting that I'm not some chillax yoga queen who beams serenity at the world. At the same time, I'm not someone who loves to boast about being busy. I spent years recovering from major depression, working part-time and walking on beaches, reading fiction and poetry and soaking up the world. Not busy then, no. After a while, I wanted to get out and do stuff again. And that's what I'm doing. To much time out wasn't good for me, wasn't balanced either. I'm trying to do the things I want to do without getting overwhelmed. I guess that means sometimes it won't work, and I will get overwhelmed, and all that means is I have to back it off a little bit and keep trying to figure it out.

And in all this, I'm not drinking. 48 days today, sober. So that's something! And despite a few weepy bits here and there, and a sincere wish to get out of here once in a while, I'm mostly doing fine. Better than I was 49 days ago, that's for sure.

I've been reading about habit and creativity and imagination, and I'm simmering some ideas on that, but I see I've chattered enough for now. I'll go out and enjoy the sunshine and try to put all that together another day. If you got this far, thanks for reading!

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Day 47: Balance?

Since I finished up with the summer semester, I've been working as much as I can to help pay for classes in the fall. That means I am working 10 days out of 11, so I'm tired. Not complaining here, I like my job and classes, and the setup suits me well, but I get tired. OK, who doesn't?

Last night after work, I asked my partner to pour me a wine. He looked at me, surprised, and I heard what I'd said and laughed. "No I meant drink. You know, fizzy water with lime or something. I'm just so tired I can't speak properly." It was true. I went to bed early with plans to catch up on my sleep. I work a full shift later today (checking watch: I leave in 20 minutes) so I had the morning free. In addition to catching up on sleep, I planned to track down and read a couple of articles that might be useful for the thesis I'll write this coming year, go for a run, read some blogs and maybe write a post. Along with the usual shower, dress, eat, make dinner to take with me, etc. Oh, and I'm always 5 minutes late for  work, so I have committed to myself to be on time from now on. Sounds like a nice morning off, right? OK, probably not. By midmorning, I decided instead to spend a few minutes thinking about balance.

Like many people who drank too much, I'm not very good at balance. I actually get a lot done, and I could while I was drinking, but I have usually done it in an all or nothing way that I don't think is healthy. I either terrorize myself into doing something because if I don't... (insert major catastrophe here), or I'd give myself a much-deserved break and skive off from whatever responsibility was looming. It worked OK, if you don't mind big doses of terror and exhaustion and drinking large amounts of wine to fuel it all and then calm the poor exhausted and terrorized self. But I started to mind that, and now I see that finding some better balance is essential. Except I have no idea how it's done.

I have read truckloads of self-help advice on how to find this elusive balance, but I haven't found a great deal of wisdom for me there. Years ago, when I worked in a bookstore, I flipped through a book recommending concrete steps to a simpler life. One was, "Sell the damn boat." The writer explained that you probably hardly ever use the boat, and it costs so much, so just get rid of it. At the time I could barely pay rent. No boat to sell. Find a new book. Other advice hasn't helped a lot either. Yoga actually raises my blood pressure. (Yes, I measured it to check. I wish I were exaggerating.) I'm not guilt-ridden, so I'm not doing classes, running, or any of those things to please some external arbiter of my well-being. I just like doing them.

So balance remains elusive, but this morning I made what might be a small step in the right direction. I let go of the run. Yes, I read, I showered, I ate, I made dinner to take, and if I get out the door in 10 minutes, I will be on time for work. So no proofreading here! Not running won't mean I have given up on my running program thereby ensuring that my mental health will slowly erode until I find myself fat and unhappy, drinking bottles of wine every night, having failed miserably on this new regime by letting that thin edge of the wedge slip in when I was tired. Nope. All it means is I'm busy today, and a bit tired. Easy, right?

OK. It's not easy. As I wrote the last sentence I had a quick thought, "Maybe you could have fit in a quick run instead of writing this." Yes, maybe. But I'm trying to balance some things, like everyone else, and I'm doing it in a way that's new to me. I'll keep trying. And if I'm out the door in a few minutes, I'll at least be in time for work, so I will have accomplished most if not all of what I hoped for the morning.

If you're reading, good luck with your own balance. Any tips on how you do it--other than selling the boat--are welcome!

Wednesday 14 August 2013

40 days: perspective

I quit drinking 40 days ago, though at the time I didn’t know it. A month or so earlier, I had started to see a counselor, not because of the drinking, but because I was feeling crazy. I didn't think I could go on as I was. While I was at it--more or less in the spirit of expecting a medal for my honesty--I mentioned that I was drinking too much, and that I should probably try to get a handle on that. No mention of quitting there. Just needing some help, that's all. But after a few weeks talking to the new counsellor, I was getting decidedly uncomfortable. I was talking about the same things, having the same problems, making no changes. Simply by telling this woman what was going on, I could see it differently. I needed to make a change. 

Even though I didn’t think booze was my biggest problem, I decided to give it up for a week, which extended to a month, then 100 days, and finally for good. It's still only 40 days, but I am not really looking at end times anymore. I don't want to go back. Ever. But because I was going to meet my counsellor again today, after a long break, I thought about what had changed over the 40 days.

One big thing is perspective. (I mentioned before that I'm studying psychology, and I'm especially interested in theoretical work dealing with the dialogical self and perspective exchange. If anyone wants academic refs, ask and I'll send them along. I won’t use them here, and I'll do my best to stay away from the academic jargon.)

Stepping outside the immediate moment and seeing yourself from a different point of view is one of the keys to human agency. Being able to see things from multiple perspectives allows people to think about things--problems, ideas, habits, whatever--from more than one angle. Integrating those perspectives into new thinking is part of how we form identity. Whether we are aware of that happening or not, it’s how we become who we are. You become you by integrating the voices of the surrounding culture--parents, teachers, friends, ads, the whole kit. That’s the theory.

Part of the work that needs doing is to be aware, to really hear those voices, separate them out from each other, and question each one. As in, is what I’m thinking is what I really think, or is just something I’ve accepted unthinkingly because that’s what we do as people? And that’s what I’ve been doing.

The first thing I noticed was that I looked forward to drinking a lot more than I enjoyed drinking. That was a revelation! I might spend a good part of the day really keen on the wine I planned to have that evening, but almost all the pleasure was in the anticipation, and the rest was in that first few minutes. (No use denying that there was some. There was.) I didn’t know what to do with that right away, but I noticed it.

Second thing was, I actually enjoyed the no-booze drinks I was making more than I enjoyed wine. It’s true! I tried lots of different things, usually with sparkling water in there somewhere, and they really did taste better. Also, I felt better.

I read lots and thought lots, and before too long I started to wonder, what if I was wrong about wine? What if it’s overrated? Now that’s not a familiar line of thinking for me. It was a point of view I’d never considered, I guess. After a while, there was no mistaking it. I didn’t miss drinking all that much. I liked the rituals of eating, and drinking something special along with that, but I still had all that. Mostly, I missed looking forward to drinking. Is that messed up or what? It was like the old Tom Waits line:

 “the obsession’s in the chasing,
not the apprehending,
the pursuit, you see, and never the arrest.”

OK, where am I going here? Perspective. Stepping outside the moment to see what is going on behind the scenes. I used to think mindfulness meant paying endless attention to myself, gazing fondly at my navel, if I could find it in the soft folds of belly. That never seemed like it was going to solve anything, and I’m far too curious about the world for my belly fat to hold my attention for all that much time. But now I see it differently. Mindfulness is about perspective. Living in the moment, yes, but also questioning that moment.  Stepping outside the moment to try and see what cultural or family scripts I’m acting out. Then asking, do they even make sense anymore?

Sometimes I’m wary of the way our culture talks about the self. Introspection can go badly wrong if it doesn’t include a healthy dose of getting outside the self and bringing some new stuff in, seeing if that works any better than the old stuff. There must be some me in all this, but I think it’s probably not some isolated, inner self trying to get away from the world. Maybe the self is more like an active process, living and breathing and taking up stories and casting off others, saying yes to this and no to that and seeing how things go, then changing what’s not working. I’m not sure about any of this. I’m just thinking here.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to for 40 days. So far so good. I feel a lot less like a messy pile of confusion and more like a whole person. I’m a work in progress, like everyone else. But I’m working on it.

Thursday 8 August 2013

Booze culture. It's everywhere.

I don't go to bars, and I live in a green lefty kind of city where it seems everyone bikes and juices and cleanses and does yoga and eats local. I live in a bit of a bubble. So it's surprising how many references there are to drinking in my day-to-day life. Yesterday, I nipped out to a local farmers' market to get out of my own head. There was a little booth selling homemade cordials, and I stopped for a taste. The woman at the booth makes the cordials herself, and she talked a bit about her flavours, ingredients, methods, that sort of thing. I chose a lemongrass-plum cordial (very tasty!) and the woman commented that it would be great with gin. Now I haven't been very public about quitting drinking, but I said, kind of without thinking, "Not for me, I quit drinking a while ago."

Well, the reaction! The woman selling the cordials said, "Oh, I love my drink. I'd never give that up." A guy standing next to me tasting a sample said, "No, I wouldn't go that crazy! Give up drinking! Sure, I'm cutting back on sugar, but booze? No, that's just nuts."

I'm not making this up. Two strangers, reacting to what I really thought was a throwaway line, while I was buying a no-alcohol beverage! And they were so adamant. Maybe I'm naive, but I really was surprised. I said I wasn't suggesting anything, I was just trying the cordials because I don't drink anymore, and that set off another round of exclaiming from the two. Holy! I mean, I wasn't ripping the gin from their cold dead hands or anything. I was in no way preaching. I don't care all that much who drinks what. I walked away with my cordial, leaving them raving to each other about not giving up drinking. Weird moment, that. Did I hit a nerve?

Then today at the grocery buying sparkling water and limes. (Hey, I sound like I'm always buying drinks. I do like having tasty drinks around!) It's a tiny store, and people bump into each other there enough times that eventually everyone gives up pretending not to see anyone and actually says hello. So the guy next to me in the lineup peered into my basket and said, smiling, "Let's see, looks like margueritas?"

I said no.
I shook my head.
"Plain old gin and soda with lime?"
Finally I answered, "Nope. Sparkling water and lime, actually."

He looked blank for a sec, and then said, "That's so healthy, yes, chelating, and the lime helps with the chelation, really really good for you, now I like a drink myself once in a while but yes, so healthy..." and proceeded to canonize me for buying water while defending himself for liking a drink. I tried to change the subject to the baking soda and sea salt he was buying, but it didn't take, and by then I was done at the till.

It's everywhere. The funny thing is, I was mostly worried about telling people I know that I'm not drinking. So far I've only told a few, but everyone has been amazingly supportive. (They're probably relieved.) But in both these conversations with strangers, I really did make the people uncomfortable, just by not joining in on the "I love booze" chatter! Sure, I could have just smiled and nodded, but I actually didn't want to pretend.

Later on, when I picked up come cooking wine (it really is for cooking) I braced myself for another round of the same, but the cashier just commented blandly on the weather. I smiled and nodded, "Yes, beautiful day." What a relief!

Wednesday 7 August 2013

"This whole sober thing is starting to get boring."

It's sunny and hot here again, another beautiful summer day. I have a paper to finish and an exam to study for. But I'm off work for the next few days to finish all that. I have a fridge full of yummy food, sparkling water, and tasty homemade drink concoctions, including rhubarb-lemonade, raspberry cordial, and iced mint-lemongrass tea. My partner is away for a few days for a family celebration that I can't attend because of the above-mentioned paper and exam, but at least I have time to get things done, and he won't have to deal with deadline-cranky me. I'm pleased he could go to the family thing, as it's in a space steeped in history for him, and he needs the break. All good, right?

So how is it that, as I'm getting out of bed, I have a clear, resounding thought, "This whole sober thing is starting to get boring"? Wait. What? Says who? Yes, it will be a little lonely, but I like time alone. I have craploads to do, but it will be done, one way or another, in a few days. I have time later on to nip out to the farmer's market for fresh garlic (oh my god, so much better than the withered stuff you buy in the grocery!) and go for a run (my second run!), so I won't be staring at a screen all day. It's a lot to do, but it sounds like a pretty good plan for a day.

I'm studying psychology, and one of the things that especially interests me is the link between language and the self. The things we say to ourselves come from the world around us, and we become who we are, in part, by the voices that get incorporated into the inner dialogue. And holy, it's noisy in there! I once did a 5-day silent meditation retreat: five days just sitting, paying attention to where the mind goes when it's let off-leash. I hated it. By the end, I was mentally replaying TV ads from the 70's ("you'll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent..."). I had hoped for something more sublime, world peace and shining-light-of-truth-visions maybe, but I am a creature of my times. We all are.

I used to try and just shout down the voices I didn't like, but that doesn't seem to work for me. They just come back loud and strong when I'm tired. Instead, maybe I need to try to hear what the "I'm bored, let's drink" voice is saying. Yes, it's saying drink, and no, I won't do that. I get that much. But what else is going on there? Maybe the answer is just, yes, parts of today will be tough, and a bit dull. Just accept that, and get back to work. Life is not some bright and shining every-moment-is-a-party gig. No? Dang.

OK, back to editing that paper. Then garlic, then a run, then more writing. Later, I can lie around and read a mystery. A bit boring, a bit all right. That's my day.

Monday 5 August 2013

Running! Sunshine! Exclamation points!

This afternoon, instead of coffee and chocolate (which actually gave me a headache and kept me up too late yesterday, grr), I gave myself a run as a reward. That's correct! Me, who used to say, "OK, if you write a few pages and start reading that article, you can have a glass of your favourite rose with lunch." Which would, of course, lead to much more wine and not much productive work. I've decided that those days are over for me. But I am still trying to write the paper I mentioned yesterday, and it's harder work than usual. (I think, honestly, I'm somehow using most of my energy taking care of myself, paying attention to not drinking, remembering why I'm not drinking, reading about other people who are not drinking or are trying to stop, and on and on. It's taking a lot, and I don't have as much leftover for the academic heavy lifting I need to do this week. That's OK, I guess. I can admit that and get something handed in anyway. I'm trying to, anyway.)

Yesterday I was thinking I needed a new system to reward myself when I'm hard at the schoolwork. And I have committed to taking up running again, thanks to Lilly at who is organizing a virtual run training group for the 100 Day Challenge folk. (Look at me! Not a joiner, never been a joiner, joining 2 groups in one month! Hooray!) I had planned to start today, but wanted to get some schoolwork done before I left the house. So I made a deal with myself: write 5 pages, then go for a run as a treat. And I did! (Well, I wrote 4 but it was close enough for me.)

And the run was glorious. Now I haven't run in a while, so no real runner would call what I did running. A walk to warm up. Few minutes trotting slowly, a little walk, repeat a few times, then walk home and stretch. It added up to 20 minutes running, another 20 or so walking. And I felt fantastic. I was smiling at babies. Smiling at toddlers. Smiling at other runners. Smiling at tomato plants. At bamboo plants. OK, you get it. A big smiley face on sweaty old me, out running! It's way too early in my little running attempt to have had a hit of those infamous workout endorphins. It was just so bloody good to be outdoors, in the sunshine, with the kids and plants and cats on doorsteps and the whole of summer, not one of them caring a jot if I wrote a good paper or a crappy one, or anything else about me for that matter.

I know it's important to be able to get outside of your own mind, and it's something I find hard to do. Especially when I'm cooped up indoors on a school project. But this was simple. Free. Healthy. And a possible start to a new way of rewarding myself, which I was in dire need of finding.

I'm 31 days sober today and it's feeling pretty good. Happy trails!

Sunday 4 August 2013

Procrastination, anxiety, and rewarding myself without booze

This week I have to finish a paper for a class I'm taking and study for an exam this coming Friday. It's a lot of work, and I'm having trouble being as committed to it as I usually am. I went back to school as a "mature student" (aka older person) a couple of years ago, and I had a relatively easy time meeting deadlines, finishing assignments, reading class readings, studying for exams, etc. I could do whatever it took. My usual method was some combination of scaring myself into submission and bribing myself with wine at the end of the day. And you know, that did kind of work. Yes, I felt like crap a lot, and I did write some exams hungover as hell, but I have done well in my classes and done the work I needed to do. So far.

Now I need some new methods. Without the spikey anxiety I get from booze, I am a lot calmer, but I am used to using that anxiety to fuel a lot of work. Without the prospect of wine to check out at the end of the day, I have found myself procrastinating, not coping all that well with deadline anxiety, not really getting a lot done, and worrying that I suddenly can't get it done after all without my finely honed terror and anxiety system. (Yes, I know, that's just the voice telling me to drink, working in crafty ways. Except I'm not going to drink. And I have to write a paper.)

So far today, I walked in circles around my tiny apartment for a few hours. Then I made a deal with myself: write 2 pages, then have a coffee and two slivers of chocolate. I wrote three, and had a little extra choc with the coffee. (It's 85% chocolate, so not a whole lot of sugar, so I'm staying out of that trap at least.) Then 2 more pages and I was allowed to skip around on some blogs for a while and write a bit here. Yes, sad but true, I am writing as a reward for writing. How's that for circular reasoning?

It's tricky, balancing genuinely having to get things done with trying to go easy on myself in my newfound sobriety. I'm not sure I 'm all that good at it, to be honest. I'm so all or nothing, so for a while I've been all, "Don't worry about school, focus on yourself" yadda yadda. But the school is something I really want to do, so it shouldn't be in opposition to "treating myself well." The irony is, I'm especially interested in motivation, and I'm starting to have some ideas about how that might work. I've used what I'm learning to help me with quitting drinking, and that's fantastic. But I still have to slog through this hard work today, rewarding myself with treats and walks and, hopefully, at the end, a job well done. That will be a much more worthwhile treat from the wine. Only it's a new system, and I'm still figuring it out!

OK, back to it.

Friday 2 August 2013

(Not) coming to my emotional rescue

I have never trusted emotions. Mostly they have got me in trouble. I am often completely overwhelmed with tears at inopportune times. A tricky conversation with a boss; a friend who is trying to talk about her own sadness; early morning despair: they have all sent me from 0-100 on the crying jag scale. It's no fun at  the time, and afterwards, it seems pointless. (Then there's my object-rage, but I already talked about that the other day. Enough already!) I love my partner, so I know what that feels like. But for a long time, I've had a sense that I wasn't tuned into the full range of emotions, just the zero of dead numb, and the 100 of way-too-much-for-me. Once in a writing class, a teacher gave me feedback on a nuanced scene I'd written, saying I should describe what the character was physically feeling in her lonely, disconnected moment. My answer was something like, "How the hell should I know?" I was always suspicious of people who could talk about emotions in explicit, articulate detail. I thought they were just bullshitting, and I prided myself on having a fine-tuned bullshit meter.

And then I quit drinking. Holy mother, do I feel emotions! Big ones, small ones, all the nuance in the world. And they're happening to me all the time. Who knew?

Last night, my partner and I were eating dinner. Poached halibut on fennel and zucchini, homemade minty-lime-fizz concoction to drink, apricots with yoghurt cheese and a sliver of dark chocolate for dessert. It was yummy! Still, it wasn't all that unusual. We both love to cook, and we eat well. But last night, I thought about how often on similar nights I had quickly slid into numb oblivion, leaving my beautiful partner to do his best making sense of my rambling drunken patter. That's a sad thought, so I felt sad, and in the middle of a lovely conversation, I started to cry. I felt a surge of grief over all that wasted time and energy, and what I now see as the daily insult to the beautiful person who kept on sharing himself with me even though I had persisted in going blotto.

I cried, yes. But I didn't dissolve into an uncontrollable heap of sobbing and end up with a massive headache and a wrecked evening. I just cried, and explained why I was sad, and asked to be held for a few minutes. And then it was gone. It wasn't a wallowing, furious sadness. Just the sensible grief at what I truly have wasted and can never get back. It was a real, normal, life-sized emotion, something that tuned me in to what was going on and helped me see it in a new way. This is all new to me. Maybe I am learning to feel my emotions, and to appreciate them. Maybe they will scale up from zero and down for 100 to life-sized proportions, filling out that whole range in between. I could live with that.

Thursday 1 August 2013

Honesty and blogging, and reading Brene Brown

Last night I started reading "The Gift of Imperfection" by Brene Brown, which has been recommended on a couple of blogs and in the comment sections of a couple more. Self-help can make me a little queasy, even though I have read craploads of self-help books over the years. But Brown's book is good. And it made me think abut what a funny thing it is for me to write a blog that's public. Now, I don't think a whole hell of a lot of people are reading here. Outside of three spam sites that scan my every word, I don't get a lot of readers, and I'm fine with that. But still, I have been noticing that I am self-editing, being careful not to say things that might be upsetting to a future, possibly non-existent, ultra-sensitive reader. If I say things are going well, I feel compelled to follow up with some "I know it won't always be so easy" comment. But I am not writing this to garner readers, or to placate people who are also quitting drinking and who might read here but who have a different experience of this. Brown talks about living whole-heartedly, and she says to do that it's essential to accept yourself the way you are and not try to be someone else. Ideas of perfection and performing to them skewer self-acceptance, and that puts a big old damper on whole-hearted living. Well, that's what she's saying so far. I'm only 25 pages in.

So, in an effort to be more honest and whole-hearted, I am going to describe to myself how I'm doing on this round of quitting drinking:

1. It's not that hard. When I tried quitting (or moderating before), the hardest part was the ongoing see-saw between "will I or won't I?" and "when will I?" and so on. That stuff is exhausting. And it didn't ever work. This time there is no see-saw. I am not drinking. Period. I am not wasting my energy deciding and re-deciding. On the occasions I've "wanted" a glass of wine, or more accurately, that I've thought about wine, I just remind myself that I have already made that decision, and it took time to make, and I am not making it again. End of story. The time limits I set helped here: first I wasn't drinking for a week, then a month, then 100 days. It's only day 27, so now I feel like, in the interest of playing nice with others, I should bow my head and say "Well, it's early days yet, who can say what will happen to me" etc. Except saying that makes this all seem like some random even that is happening to me, not the result of a considered decision and some serious follow-through on that decision.

2. Reading blogs helps, but too much isn't good for me. I wrote to Belle at that the voices of the people who had succeeded in quitting had been really helpful to me. It's true. I needed a new way of framing my thinking around the booze, and reading was helpful to me in getting that. But I can be a tad obsessive, and too much of anything is mind-numbing. Limiting blog-reading to twice a day seems like a good idea, so I can actually get something done besides not drinking, which isn't actually doing anything and so can't possibly take that long.

3. What I eat matters. Yesterday I commented on a discussion about sugar on Mrs D's fantastic blog. (Here's the post: Of course, I said I wouldn't necessarily recommend eating the way I eat, but why say that? I am not assuming what I do suits everyone, but surely giving up a few foods for a while if you're getting obsessed with them and then introducing them back slowly isn't the most draconian food program ever tried! But that same old inner voice that says, "Careful don't offend anyone, people really like their sugar," that results in me offering a disclaimer I don't quite mean. When I actually quit eating sugar and wheat for a while, it made people damned uncomfortable. My boss referred to it as "Your new flaky eating routine." Never mind that I lost 20 pounds and had way more energy, and I wasn't asking anyone else to do the same thing. I was only, once again, refusing the offer of a mid-afternoon apple turnover. I didn't care if anyone else ate ten of them! After all the flak I took there, I'm careful mentioning it. At the same time, quitting drinking has been way lower profile for me, since I am not being offered drinks all day long everywhere I go, and that might be a part of why it's easier.

4. I am not a smiley, smooth-the crisis woman. I act like that sometimes, because I have strong opinions and don't mind a good debate, so I try to make up for that by being agreeable. The truth is, I can be abrasive, and that doesn't always go over well. We all internalize voices from the surrounding culture. (See #2 above. It can be super-helpful!) But trying to defer to invisible criticism is just incorporating the wrong voices into the inner dialogue. This is a blog, for pity's sake, a paltry online record of something I want to write about. If there are critics out there who might trip across it at some future date, surely they have better things to do than chime in with my own self-criticism.

OK, that's it for now I think. I quit drinking, and I'm not going back. It's not that big a deal. I don't have to pretend to some great internal struggle that's not there. Even cataloguing the tiny drink cravings here and there seem to be giving them too much credit. Sometimes I think I might step in front of a bus, but I don't. No medals there. Once, when a coworker was pregnant, I kept wondering what nursing must be like. OK, fine, but I didn't actually do it, nor was I promoted for not doing it. Random thoughts happen, and they don't have to run the whole show. That is, in part, what human agency is all about. I'm glad I'm doing what I'm doing. But I won't try not to pretend it's something it's not.