Interview with Laura from Quit Wining

Last week, I had a wonderful conversation with Laura Ward from Quit Wining. She is a certified life and recovery coach and a lovely person. Please take a moment to visit her site, check out her blog and read/watch the conversations she is having with others in recovery. She is doing excellent work!

Next month, I will be celebrating five years of sobriety. It is a milestone and I am very proud of it, however, I actually celebrate my sobriety every day I have been sober! I do hope you all are doing well. I am sorry I haven’t been as active in the blog community as I once was. Not much has changed in my life since I last checked in, except that I find my passions to be deeper and more meaningful because I am one hundred percent my authentic self every single day with no interference from alcohol. I don’t miss bargaining with it or myself or whatever I was doing when I was trapped in active drinking. I’ve gotten on with my life and I truly enjoy “just being.”

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Still Sober, Still Loving It

This May, I celebrated three lovely years of sobriety. And when I say lovely, I’m not just blowing smoke. I don’t feel as though I’m a changed person, but rather that I’m a recovered person. I haven’t lived in the natural state of sobriety since I was a kid. I live each day being fully present, completely aware of my world. Nearly every minute detail of it (except when my thyroid is underperforming or when I’m anemic, which happens from time to time). I don’t miss drinking. Really. Truly. Not kidding. And as time goes by, I think less and less about it. When I go to parties or get-togethers now, I rarely, if ever, feel like I need to bring my own arsenal of N/A beer. Whatever soft drink is being served is usually just fine for me. Because I’ve completely lost my preoccupation with what other people are drinking. I remember obsessing about this, once upon a time. Without realizing it, I counted how many drinks other people were having. I made a mental inventory of all the alcohol at any given social gathering I attended. I’m not sure at what point I stopped doing that, but I can tell you that it is a relief not to give a shit anymore. Here’s my current criteria for the beverages I consume:

  1. Is it morning? The drink must contain caffeine.
  2. Is it hot as hell outside? The drink must be cold.
  3. Is is freezing outside? The drink must be hot.

That pretty much sums it up. I mean, of course I have preferences and what-have-you. But I have found that I am far more focused on other things now. Like my garden, protesting our current president, the Red Sox, kayaking, the ocean, eating as much seafood as possible until summer is over, you know, LIFE.

I haven’t been to a meeting since the beginning  of the year. I miss them. I miss my sober community. But whenever I realize that I haven’t been, it’s like, the day after my regular meeting and I sort of forget by the time it rolls around again. I’d like to change that. I need to be reminded of who I am every so often and how easily I can fall back to that. I also enjoy being of service, particularly to the incredbily brave newly sober folks.

Anyway, I thought I would post even if all I have to report is that I have nothing to report. Because that is honestly the best kind of reporting.

I hope everyone is enjoying their lush, sober lives!






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Recovery Is More Than Not Drinking

Recovery is the process of changing/modifying unhelpful behaviors and introducing balance into your life. Removing your addictive substance is step one. The rest is the real work. It’s identifying all the ways in which you used (alcohol, in my case) to soothe and block out stressors. I thought, after two years of sobriety, that I had done it. But I hadn’t. A new stinky layer is starting to peel off now.

It seems that I have suffered with general anxiety disorder on and off my entire adult life. I remember going to see a therapist in college because I was convinced I had contracted HIV and was going to die (I was in a monogamous relationship with a guy who had slept with like one other person and we always used condoms). I didn’t believe the negative test results I got. I thought that there was contamination at the lab. I would wake up on a beautiful day and think: Oh, it’s so lovely outside. Too bad I’m going to die. This might seem funny, but trust me, I believed it to my core. Eventually, after therapy and time proving that I was not sick, I let it go. It was the beginning of my ability to distort reality to the point of incarcerating myself in my mind and sincerely believing that I am destined for the worst possible outcome. I started doing it again. This time, it’s all about money. I am convinced that I am going to end up homeless and completely destitute, although I have no evidence to support this. It is reaching a fever pitch now because my husband and I are in the process of putting our house on the market and all the “what ifs” are coming down the pike. I am not experiencing all out panic attacks, but I am having obsessive thoughts, constantly painting myself in the worst possible light, taking on unearned guilt for the weirdest things. I do the comparison game all the time, not just with other people but with former versions of myself. Back when I wasn’t in business for myself and earned a very healthy salary.

I have a million reasons to happy. A lot more than when I was earning that big salary. But these distortions have pretty much taken over. It started out slowly and gained momentum until two days ago. On Wednesday, I had a visit with a wonderful, highly recommended therapist. After just one visit, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. I am so looking forward to this journey with him.

I am not looking for answers, so much as cognitively therapeutic ways of dealing with these damaging thoughts. I am looking for a way to challenge them and to develop an alpha voice in my mind that gives myself permission to experience joy and call bullshit on the obsessive voice. A therapist is a perfect solution because unlike using general tools from a book or guide, he will customize them for me, because he knows exactly where my head is at. He also wants to get to the root cause of the distortions. Shit, so do I. I present to the outer world very normally and I am able to offer rational advice and perspective to my friends. Somewhere in my brain, though, I made this weird executive decision that I am undeserving of rational thought.

I used to hush all of this with alcohol. Obsessive thoughts be damned! I’ve got cabernet! (Of course, the racing thoughts would always find a way to sneak back into my brain at 4AM, when I was sober and vulnerable.) Now, I have empower myself to get to the bottom of this and develop strategies for dealing with them without booze.





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Not Much You Can Do

I wasn’t going to post about this, but I reconsidered because I think there is a lesson to learn in it. Back in September of last year, my recovery meeting organizer ask me to host our meetings for a few months because he wanted to coach his kid’s football team. I thought it was good that he wanted to be so involved in the extracurricular activities of his son, so I gladly stepped in. I also figured that when the busiest time of my business kicked in, he would be done, so I could have the option of not going to meetings if I was dog tired.

Well, he never returned except for maybe one meeting. And during this time, the size of the meeting got bigger and we were running out of chairs every week. I wasn’t familiar with the people in the building in the way that he was, so I didn’t know how to address the issue. Every time I attempted to get him back involved, it was met with, “Sure, sure, I’ll be there next week.” Except, he never showed. People started becoming concerned about him, as was I. The last time I spoke with him, he acted as if I was really bothering him and suggested that the meeting should simply run itself, without a facilitator. I’m also friends with him on Facebook and I noticed that there were pictures of him showing up in my feed from ski trips with his new girlfriend. Some of the pictures were in bars.

Now, I am not suggesting that he went back out. I honestly don’t know. I do care about him and I hope that he remains sober, however, I think it’s pretty weird to just ditch the recovery meeting that you started without making sure there was someone committed to facilitate moving forward.

I decided to switch meetings. I did not want the responsibility of running it every week, as my work hours get funny from time to time. I also did not take the training, nor did I ever want to. Hosting for a short time was fine, but that’s all I really can commit to. It just raises an odd question. What do you do when the person you looked up to in recovery simply loses interest? What do you do when you think this person is in danger of falling off the wagon? The answer is: nothing. There is absolutely nothing you can do. I am now attending meetings on a different night- one that actually works better for me because it coincides with an evening that my husband has to work late. A lot of the same people who attend my previous meeting also go to this one, so I haven’t lost contact with many people in my recovery community. I have heard that one of the attendees of my old meeting wants to facilitate it, and I really hope that happens.

As for my recovery, it continues to be strong. And I honestly love the facilitator of my new meeting. He has a genuine gift. Perhaps I have done more for myself by switching.

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Happy 2016!

It’s been a long time. Happy New Year! I hope you all had wonderful holidays. Mine were lovely and work was busy, as that is my craziest time of year. I was fortunate in that I did not have any real temptations during the course of all the good cheer, except one brief moment. I was attending a very small gathering at a friend’s house and when I got up to refresh my soda, I noticed that there was a bottle of rum conveniently sitting right there next to the Coke. For a split second (and I mean SPLIT second), I thought, “Hmmm, I could put a splash of rum in my soda and no one would know.” I didn’t. But I took that as a sign that it was time for me to go. So I did.

My 2-year mark is a little over 4 months away and I seem to find myself in a place of simply not thinking about alcohol anymore. I do when I attend my meetings, but my mission in going to meetings is to help others and to get that wonderful, warm and comforting feeling of being in a room with other alcoholics. It’s like being able to take all of your guard down and your armor off. Not having to sensor all of the things that swirl around in your head about drinking and alcoholism. Not having to worry about making other people feel weird or uncomfortable because everyone there gets it, everyone there understands, everyone is seeking that same feeling that you are. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of my life, but I find it impossible to describe to my friends and family. Pretty weird that the people who know me most intimately can’t begin to understand the depth of feeling that occurs during my meetings. I suppose they don’t need to.

I wish I had more to share. I don’t know. I seem to have just gotten on with my life. Maybe it’s because I am not in a 12 step recovery group and I’m not working my way through them. I’m just living life without alcohol. I know enough that I must go to meetings, but things have become pretty routine with me. I like it. I don’t miss the hangovers, I don’t miss the blackouts and most of all I don’t miss the unpredictability that comes with taking that first drink. Will I be able to pace myself? Will this be a normal night or will I end up falling down the stairs? Will I say something ridiculous? Will my friends take pictures of me passed out on the sofa? Boy am I happy that is all in the past.

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Home Alone

home-alone-boyThis week, at my recovery meeting, someone in the group mentioned that he was struggling with staying away from drinking when his wife goes on business trips. Personally, I remember how I looked forward to weekends alone during my drinking days. I am not sure what it is about the alcoholic brain, but knowing that we can drink as much as we want without anyone peering over our shoulder was a tempting offer. Like a huge party for one on the couch. I would drink double what I usually had on these occasions and nine out of ten times, I would wake up and not remember much about this good ole time I supposedly had the night before. I would pray that if my husband called me from where he was to say goodnight that (a) I answered, (b), I didn’t sound drunk and (c) I didn’t fall asleep on the phone with him. Naturally, everyone in the group was able to relate to this, as I am sure many of you can.

It’s hard to stop drinking on a regular basis and abstain at gatherings, etc., but perhaps one of the most difficult things to do is to resist the temptation to drink when no one is watching. When you can only be accountable to yourself. Here are a few things you can do should you find yourself in this situation:

  1. Plan a night out with friends who know you are sober. If possible, make sure that it’s a sober night for all. Go to a movie, grab some coffee, hang out somewhere safe.
  2. Go to a meeting.
  3. Surround yourself with sober materials (recovery books, etc.).
  4. Read sober blogs and perhaps write in your own if you have one. Write in a personal journal if you have one.
  5. Go to a yoga class or do yoga at home. Even planning a nice evening walk in the fresh air is a good activity.
  6. Engage in a project that you might have been putting off.
  7. Binge watch your favorite television shows. If you have a show that your partner doesn’t like to watch, this is a great opportunity to indulge in that guilty pleasure!
  8. Clean the house. Reward yourself with a nice cup of your favorite tea (and maybe some cake!).
  9. Do a “Cost-Benefit Analysis.” Write down all the benefits of getting wasted alone and all the things it’s going to cost you. You will quickly see how much the costs outweigh the benefits.
  10. Play the tape forward. Imagine yourself drinking all that booze, then imagine all the crappy moments that will likely follow.

I don’t struggle with this so much anymore, but the memories of drinking up heavy when my husband was out of town are all too vivid for me. Just the idea of avoiding the shame of overdoing it continues to be enough motivation for me. It’s no fun to face two empty bottles in the morning, especially when you feel like absolute shit, physically.

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Acknowledging the Voice of Your Addiction

My addictions speak to me more during specific times of the year. In the summer, my alcohol addiction tries to make a case for drinking. It shows me images of red plastic cups at backyard barbecues, dewy glasses of cool wine at the beach, cold beer necks stuffed with fresh slices of lime held around fire pits. It promises me a good time. It pleads, just this once! My nicotine addiction pipes up around this time of year. It knows how much I am going to need to accomplish for work and it lets me know that should I bring it on board, I’ll have an easier time. It will give me those much needed breaks in between huge projects and it will be a soothing presence when the stress begins to consume me.

In the past, I didn’t really know how to talk to these addiction voices. For years, I was weak in the face of them and quite happy to buy what they were selling. I didn’t resist – I thought that these substances were assisting me. My life is so hard, I obviously need all the help I can get, right? No one has it as tough as me, who could blame me for leaning on these things?

Now I have to talk back to the voice. It’s weird. I never really did that before I quit. I thought about using the, “I’m perfectly happy without you” technique. Or the, “Who needs you anyway?” comeback. The problem with those lines is, they aren’t true. It’s like saying, “I’m great and everything is fine.” For me, the only way to fight with the voice and actually win is to be honest. So, here is what I usually tell the voice and it actually helps:

“I hear you. I understand what you are trying to do for me. Yes, those things sound tempting and I remember a time when they seemed to work. Would I like to engage in those things again? Yes, yes, I would. But there are strings attached, which, funny thing, is something you never really talked much about, addiction voice. You are like a used car salesman,  always pushing the benefits, but failing to mention the downside. And the downside, unfortunately, could cost me my life. Short term relief equals long term damage. So, inasmuch as I would love to give in, we both know that there is no such thing as just this once. Thank you for reminding me that I am worthy of help and that I need to find ways to soothe myself during difficult times.”

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