Saturday, November 30, 2013

My First Sober Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was a lovely day at my parents house. My brother and his family came down, all the kids (five boys under eight years old- my two and his three) got along. All the adults got along. Dinner was loud and delicious. We all agreed that the stuffing was the best, ham too was a great idea, and that we should feed the kids first next year so we could all actually eat instead of pop up and down for kid seconds and thirds before we'd had a bite. "Mom? I need more ham." "Me too! I need more ham too!" And so we could hear each other talk.

Around five or so we came home, built a fire and all piled up in blankets and pillows and snacks on the couch. Put on "The Polar Express".

Kind of in the middle of the movie I had a sudden thought. "Is this what we do every year? Wait, why don't we do this every year?"

Then I remembered.

This was my first sober Thanksgiving.

Usually I would have had wine with dinner. Then Jonathan and I would have wine at the house. I would have wanted to put the kids to bed on time so we could get our Thanksgiving drink on. I would have been bundled in my coat outside smoking and freezing.

I would be hungover this morning instead of popping open a can of cinnamon rolls and making bacon. I would be dreading this whole day instead of wishing it had a few more hours. I would have been upstairs asleep instead of making hot chocolate for the kids. Seeing them grin when I hold up the whipped cream so they'll open their mouths and I'll spray some right in. This delights them and me every time. I would have missed it.

The more time I spend sober, the more I realize that the alcohol industry has it all wrong. I don't have less fun because I don't drink- I have more. They have us all fooled into thinking that life is ho-hum OK, but if you add some chardonnay it will be somehow extra extra amazing. They want us to believe booze makes it better.


They also want you to think you are missing something if you aren't drinking. That you are boring. Abnormal. I am of the opinion that having to add booze to an event or to a person to make it fun is just plain dumb. Totally dumb. 

Being sober has made me realize: I'm not missing anything. I see and hear and remember it all. I'm not waiting for the magical time to happen when the wine is right and the night is alive and I am suddenly, because of booze, the woman I was always meant to be. I am already her. I have all the things I need right here. I am not boring or uncool with my seltzer and my sobriety. I am fucking awesome. :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

BOOKS! (Something else to do besides drink)

When I first quit drinking it seemed like all I did was read about people who had gotten sober. I loved it. I loved the feeling of knowing that my story could turn out like Mary Karr's, or Caroline Knapp's. I can see why people go to AA- that spirit of camaraderie that comes from sharing a life experience can be a huge boost to your confidence when you start a new thing.

I still haven't made it to AA, but. I read a lot, a LOT, about being sober and being a person in general. I just found another great book that I'm about 1/3 of the way through. It occurred to me that I could put together a list of what I've been reading over the past almost year so that y'all can read them too.

In no particular order here they are:

Drinking: A Love Story Caroline Knapp

I read this so many times before I got sober, maybe once a year for like 13 years.

Unwasted Sacha Z. Scoblic

I read this early in my sobriety.

Lit: A Memoir Mary Karr

Another I've read over and over.

Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore Rachael Brownell

This one helped me with the mom parts of my drinking life. It was such a relief to know I wasn't the only mom out there drinking and loving my family at the same time.

Drink Ann Dowsett Johnston

This is the new one I'm reading. I'm liking it because it is making my brain work about the word alcoholic vs. the word I think I really am that I haven't come up with yet.

Kick the Drink...Easily Jason Vale

Another one I read pretty early in my sobriety.

The TurnAround Mom Carey Sipp

This one helped with the mom parts too. We need a brave dad to write about the TurnAround Dad.

The Power of Now Eckhart Tolle

I haven't finished this one yet. It's full of big big stuff, so I have to digest it in bits. It gave me one of my biggest things I use when I feel overwhelmed or start obsessing about future problems: Reduce it to "What is the problem RIGHT NOW?" Solve that one (usually there isn't one), and not the ones I'm imagining or that have already happened.

The Gifts of ImperfectionDaring Greatly Brene Brown

Holy shit, I could not love her any more than I do.

Introvert Power Laurie Helgoe

I always thought I was a shy extrovert, and that being an introvert was a bad thing. It was so cool to read this and recognize that I am actually an introvert- and that that doesn't mean shy, or bad. It means I understand myself better. Cool.

Sober Is My New Drunk Paul Carr

Another early read.

Stop Being Mean to YourselfFinding Your Way HomeThe Language of Letting GoMore Language of Letting Go Melody Beattie

I've been reading her for years. You know, all the years I knew I had a problem but just kept right on drinking. Maybe it helped me not be worse that I was.

The Alchemist Paulo Coelho

Not one about getting sober, but life perspective.

The Happiness ProjectHappier at Home Gretchen Rubin

I don't think you have to be happy all the time, but I like books like this anyway.

Eat and Run Scott Jurek

This reminded me that anything is possible. ANYTHING. And that that anything possible wasn't just for other people, it was for people exactly like me. We all all possible people. Especially when we aren't drinking ourselves into oblivion.

MWF Seeking BFF Rachel Bertsche

Getting sober can mean needing different friends. This helped me sort out what my requirements are for a friend besides "You can drink as much as me."

This is HowDry Augusten Burroughs

I read "This is How" about five times last winter/early spring. "Dry" I haven't read this year, but I recommend it.

Traveling MerciesPlan BGrace(Eventually)Bird by BirdOperating InstructionsSome Assembly RequiredHelp, Thanks, WowStitches Anne Lamott

She is. The. Greatest. In my dream world she is my neighbor and she comes over for cornbread and tea and we talk about stuff and my soul fills up. In my real world she writes these amazing books that speak to my heart and my soul fills up.

Y'all comment and suggest books too. Many of us don't go to meetings, and books were and are my meetings when I need some sober shoring up.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Time to Decide

I know at this time last year I was hungover. And asleep. There was probably an empty glass of water beside my bed. I'd probably been up drinking until who knows when- I was getting really deep into my drinking at this point- blacking out almost every time.

Thinking about it now, I can still pick out things to blame. Excuses for having a bottle of wine by 8 o'clock a few times a week. My job was in an awful place. I needed wine to be able to hang out with the kids and not go batshit crazy. I never saw my husband and the only way we could spend time together was to drink together after he got home from work. I wasn't walking the dogs enough. I didn't know what to make for dinner. Life is hard. Blah blah blah.

I was charging full speed ahead into full on alcoholism.

Each trip to the store I was buying not one but two bottles of wine. And a twelve pack of beer, to be sure I would have enough. This seemed like a lot, but not like too much. I might have to share. I was adding seltzer to my wine to make it last longer because I'd started finishing the bottles too fast. I'd started drinking bottles of Prosecco since sparkling means celebrating and there's nothing wrong with that.

I can still picture myself in the kitchen after two glasses getting dinner ready. The boys in front of the TV. Me sneaking out into the back yard to smoke just one more cigarette and then finish dinner. I picture this shell that was me, but not me. I picture me, but I was vacant, disappearing. More wine, dinner, bath, stories. The relief of the back porch when everyone was in bed. The annoyance when one of them would get up and come find me.

It's really hard to remember this stuff. To think about my little boys in their pajamas standing at the porch door wanting me, but I wasn't emotionally there. How they must not have understoond why I wouldn't pay attention to them, or leave the back porch to tuck them in one more time. Maybe they didn't see it as unusual, but I knew it was wrong. They never knew what mom to expect. I suspect they were starting to know which one to expect: none at all.

It's hard to think of my husband coming home from work and finding me in some sort of drunken state chain smoking on the porch. How much that must have sucked. How I would launch into some big talk about how he wasn't good enough at being a husband, or father, or housekeeper, or person, or whatever. How I unloaded all the stuff I hated about myself onto him. I made it about him instead of me. He never knew what wife to expect. I suspect he was starting to want no wife at all.

But I always knew what to expect. I was either going to be drinking or hungover, or in one of those two to five day spaces of trying to not drink. And I was always going to have that tape playing in my head- the greatest hits version of "You Suck At Life" playing over and over again.

There comes this time in all of our lives when we have to decide.

And I'm not talking about "I need to" or "I want to" or "I'm going to try".

I'm talking about "I AM".

It was not until I told myself "I AM GOING TO BE SOBER" and "I AM NOT DRINKING" that I did it.

There's a difference in the way "I AM" and "I WANT TO" is. "I AM" means it. "I WANT TO" gives you an out. "I WANT TO" means that you mean it in the morning when you feel awful and hungover, but that when later rolls around and you're having a drink it's OK, because you didn't say you were going to quit. You just said you wanted to.

It was not until I told myself "I AM GOING TO BE SOBER" and "I AM NOT DRINKING" that I did it.

The biggest thing I remember from the last day I woke up hungover and said "FROM THIS MOMENT ON I AM NEVER DRINKING AGAIN" is the relief. I was laying there, it was noon. I decided. I put down my weapons and surrendered. I felt that surrender, deep deep down. "I AM GOING TO BE OK." I wasn't sure that could be be true, but I believed it anyway. 

I knew that there were going to be two ways things would turn out. My truth would either be "I AM AN ALCOHOLIC" or "I AM ALIVE". I had to decide.

It's one of those things sitting here writing to y'all and me. If I said what I want to I would say just this: Quit. Quit right now and never look back. It is so much better, I promise, promise promise. I put it in writing. I say you can do it. You can. You can. You will be amazed at yourself, and so proud. Do it! But things just aren't that simple sometimes. And maybe you wouldn't believe me, or maybe you wouldn't believe that it was possible for you. I sometimes feel like it would come off like one of those weight loss infomercials where you watch and go "Oh! Look how good he/she looks! I want to do that!..... I could never do that." 

But you can. It will be true for you, just like it has been true for me. Your people will know who to expect. You will too. You will feel that relief, that surrender. It's always the right time to decide. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Good Advice

I've been feeling super cocky in my sobriety lately. (Being in a magazine didn't hurt.) Like I am a sober badass, and will be forever. Nothing will stop me. After a summer/early fall of feeling pretty wavery and sad and just down in the dumps something changed and I took another step up- another leap away from boozy me and towards this awesome new person I am slowly becoming, that I already am.

It still feels very uncomfortable to think of myself in positive terms, but I'm practicing. A lot.

Which makes me realize that at some point in my life I felt really good about me, and then I felt toooo good about me. And then I got knocked down several times and finally stayed down.

I can be quite firm in my beliefs. Almost unbending. I can also be "If I can, you can. So just do it." Not super fair.

I want so much for anyone struggling with alcoholism to find their way to sobriety- consistent, lasting sobriety. And I'm at this point where I have almost a year, and I feel good about it, but I cannot forget where I came from. That bossing people into being sober (which is where I was heading) is not the way to help people to be sober.

Alcoholics aren't really the type you can boss into anything. Alcoholism is really an act of defiance. You can't really manhandle people like that (me) into anything, much less saving their own lives. Lord knows no one could have told me to stop drinking. It just would have made me drink more. And it did! The more I told myself I needed to quit the more I wanted to drink. You can't tell me what to do.

I'm struggling some with guidance and excuses. How to hear someone's struggle and it be expansive, and then how to draw lines in the sand that define boundaries that cannot be crossed. How to hear explanations, but not excuses. How to have forgiveness, and have expectations. How to hear people in their sobriety, not mine.

My universe friend Amy and I had a really good good conversation yesterday and I could tell I was feeling so smart and wise and superhuman. My advice is so good. My thoughts are wonderful and the best. I was basking in my glory.

And then she said some things in her universe Amy way that brought me back to earth.

One of them thundered through my head: "When you start feeling invincible is when it gets really dangerous. Then you could be way more likely to drink."

It reminded me to be humble in my sobriety. It reminded me to listen to those who have years on me, that my wisdom is far from complete. It reminded me that I am me, and you are you. And that to be the strong person I am and want to be I have to be able to use what works for me, but then I also have to use what works for you, too.  It reminded me that I have a lot to give, and a long long way to go.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Getting A Miracle

The Good Housekeeping article! Thanks to everyone for your support and kind words. I've gotten a few emails from people who say things like "divine intervention" and "just in time" and that has been really really cool. Y'all know I deep down believe that when you pray the universe will answer, but you have to listen, and if someone reading about me getting sober helps them get sober.....the totally amazingness of that is big to contemplate.

That article coming out led to this:

  • Hey, Hope all is well. I wanted to give you a heads up about something that has happened/been happening for awhile now. Amy has quit drinking alcohol as is was a problem for her and our family. She will be 1 year sober this Dec 7th. I am very proud of her and her ongoing accomplishment. This has been a strugle that she has taken on full steam. Bravo on many levels my sweet. As a part of her healing process, she started a blog about her struggle. The name of the blog is Soberbia. It is a journal so to speak, of her struggles. As it turns out, many people read and comment on this blog as it speaks true and in line with other peoples problems with alcohol. This blog is out there for everyone to read and we are happy that so many do! Warning, there is colorful language, plain and simple. A few months ago, Amy was contacted by Good Housekeeping asking about her blog. As it turns out they have a column that is all about self-help/betterment, and they wanted to feature her in the magazine. She said OK. We were hoping to get an opportunity to speak about this in person and figured the wedding wasn't right, so here I am not in person letting you know. The article is scheduled to be in the December issue of Good Housekeeping. As it turns out, December is released the first of November. We were unaware that it was going to be on the newsstands this soon, or we would have talked sooner. We wanted you to be aware in case that someone approached you about the article. I am very proud of Amy and hope that you will support her as I and the children have over this last year. Sorry this is coming to you via email, but it is the most effective way for me to articulate our feelings to everyone.
    Please tell Gram and anyone else that you feel necessary.
    Love to all!
    December 2013 Page 69 in the "Feel Good" section
    Amy you are a rock star, keep up the great work, Jack Hampton and I are so Proud!

This letter took my breath away. So much love coming from my husband to me that I felt about 27 million feet tall. My heart feels so full. Then I called his grandmother (who is 88 and an old school southern lady) and had to tell her I was an alcoholic, and that pretty much everyone might know about it since I was in a magazine.

"Oh Amy! I am so proud of you!" she said, not missing a beat. Not one second of disapproval. NOT ONE. "Good for you!" she said. More love. More taller.

Then the email from Jonathan's mom came:

I am so thankful that you have shared this with us! I only wish I had known earlier. I would have been praying for Amy....for all of you...and would have been one of her biggest cheerleaders this past year. I have plenty of love and support to give. I have started reading the blog.....from the beginning.....but since I do have to get some work done, I have to save the rest until I'm home. I am SO PROUD of you Amy! My heart is about to pop! Love you so much! Mimi/Mom

Now I am hugely tall. Taller than ever. My heart swelled to as big as it could get, and then stretched out to make room for the support coming from my family and people out in the world who don't even know me but believe in me.

Whoa. Thank you universe. I needed that. Ask and ye shall receive. But you have to ask. And also receive.

It seems like that when you put yourself out there you can get what you give. So I put myself way on out there (way way on out there) and the universe made sure I was safe, and loved, and OK. That since I did something brave I could feel the love that was coming from everywhere: but I had to open my heart to get it. When I said to the world "Here I am: but for real though" the world said "Cool. Here's this love. You are OK."

Sometimes when you spend all your time hiding love just can't find you, no matter how hard you wish for it to show up. But then you stop hiding and love shows up. When you say things like "Help" and "Here I am" and you squinch your eyes closed and hope for the best and then open your eyes and the best shows up too. And then you realize that even a little best is so much better than your old idea of best, and this new big big biggest best is amazing and like a miracle.

That you are loved and that a lot of that love comes from within you yourself is a miracle too.

Getting close to my year anniversary and getting emails from people just starting out makes me think about all the things I was just a year ago. Scared. Drunk. Hidden. Worried. Sad. Unable. Suffocating. Drowning. Full of undone wishing. Under my pretty regular life I was a pretty big mess holding it together with linty old tape and fraying dirty string- liable to break at any moment.

A year ago today I was probably hungover. Then I woke up that one day and decided I wanted my miracle. That I could have it. That things like "love" and "best" were actually for naked mole rat people like me too. That I could put down the thing that made me unable to see the gifts the universe had been holding out to me all along. That I was worthy. And strong. Capable. That I was a live-r and not a life-r.

And so maybe here you are: hungover. What if at this time next year you've been sober for almost a year now? What if you look around and decide it's time for your miracle too? What if you think it will be too hard, and that you can't can't can't but then you do it anyway?

If you are reading this you can have your miracle too. I give you permission from me and the universe because the universe once gave me permission and told me it was OK to offer it to anyone else who needed it. It's hard and sad and glorious and you won't even believe that it's you anymore until that day when you've been sober for a while and you suddenly realize you're the you-est you you've ever been. Then you will drop to your knees in you heart and give out thanks for strength and for yourself. You will be soul naked and scared but you will be you and you will love yourself so much for it. And you will cry this deep heartfelt cry, and as the tears of joy and blessing roll down your face you will know.

You are a miracle too.

Monday, November 11, 2013

So, a while back someone from Good Housekeeping contacted me about me being in the magazine. Not for Christmas cookies. For being sober. For being sober! My whole being hit the floor.

You mean you want me to be in a magazine because I quit drinking? You read my blog? Um.....what?

This happened this summer, and now here it is:

I only knew the article was out because someone emailed me and said, "Hi, I saw you in Good Housekeeping magazine....." And so I called Jonathan before I left work and said to please go to the store and get a copy or four so I could see it.

Holy crap y'all! I am so excited! I mean, there I am! Mixed in among the foolproof holiday dinners and smart ways to save this season talking about getting sober!

And I am also a big bunch of nerves, since now people might know. You know, like my mother-in-law who we haven't said anything to, or maybe someone at work who doesn't really figure into the equation, or well, you know- other people besides my safe sober community. It makes me want to explain: "But, see, really it was only a little problem, and I'm fine, and you know everyone drinks more than they should sometimes and and and....."

While I was hard thinking this morning I realized that I am afraid. Afraid of what people will think. Not of me now, but of past me. Now I'm fine (even when I'm not), it's then that's so messy. That old me is kind of embarrassing. I can stack up twenty different ways I shamed myself in ten seconds thinking about things I've done when I was drunk. (Ack. Don't do that to yourself.) I could probably fill a room with people who could say something bad about me that happened when I had too much over the course of my drinking life. I could feed a small country on the shame of it all.

It's hard, sometimes, to remember that that isn't who I am anymore.

I am afraid that people won't believe me. That they'll think I'm going back to the booze one day. That I am not totally committed. That I can't be trusted. That just like I hid my drinking I hide my sobriety. That I don't mean what I say. I'm afraid that I don't believe me either. What if I'm a big faker? A liar? What if I'm not good enough to have a nice together life? What if I don't really deserve it?

And then I realize that it's none of my business what other people think of me. The only opinion that I need to listen to comes from inside of me. I do believe me, big time. I do deserve it. We all do.

Here I am, in a magazine, and so the universe is making sure that I keep going. There is published out in the big wide world evidence now so there really is no turning back. If that's not a "you're doing the right thing" from somewhere out there I don't know what would be. I'm so grateful for that.

As I got further into my hard think I realized something. I am proud of who I am. And I'm OK with people thinking their own thinks about me. Cause besides all the bad stuff, there will be good stuff. Some of it really good. And so when I need to tie up my ship I'm going to head over to that.

So much of the twenty years I drank was about the continuous self tear down mission. FUCK THAT. I am no longer ashamed, or afraid to put myself out in the world just as I am, right now, today. Getting sober has made me finally, finally, mostly OK with me. Wow.

So this is me. My name is Amy, I am sober, and I am really proud of who I am.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

11 Months Sober Today

I'm 11 months sober today. It hardly seems possible that almost a whole year has gone by, but it has! I'm going to visit a lifelong friend next weekend. The last time we were together we sat on my back porch and drank and smoked for hours. She asked me if I was still not drinking, and I said  yep, and she said wow. That's a long time. Yep.

I've been counting days again- looking forward to this 11 month benchmark. It makes me feel safe. It makes me feel like I can look in my rearview mirror and I don't even see any booze in the picture. I have a pile of sober days now, a sober history now. I have enough time that it isn't just a phase, or a whim, but a truth about me. I am so, so, so fucking proud of that.

Last night my husband and I went out to dinner together just us for the first time since I've been sober. (I know, in pretty much a year. Holy head smack.) It was wonderful, wonderful. We talked. And ate. Relaxed. And ate. I went to the bathroom before dessert and felt so good to be sober. To be standing in the bathroom not uber buzzed after way to much to drink already. To not be reeking of cigarettes and wine. To not worry if I stumbled. To feel beautiful and clear. To remember it all.

I feel like we shared a meal. That we had a chance to bond. That we need to do that more! Our marriage is kind of like a kid learning to ride a bike. There can be a lot of wobbling, and sometimes a wreck. But we really want to know how to ride a bike, so we keep practicing. As I learn to live in my sobriety I learn how to be a better wife. A kinder one. I see that my husband really loves me because I give him the chance to. When I was drinking my heart was a wooden door. It's hard to open it, but I'm learning to trust him. To lean on him and feel safe. We are becoming a "we" again.

Oh, the progress of sobriety. God, it is such a wonderful hard thing.