Three Dog (Walk) Night

Whose the biggest beneficiary of my new sobriety?  Is it my husband, who has a wife who doesn’t “check out” each evening?  Is it my children, with their mom once again fully engaged and aware?

Nope.  It’s my dog.

Whenever I have the urge to drink, I find it’s helpful to grab the leash and take my little guy for a walk.  Yesterday (day 12) was a tough day.  I was home alone with the kids, feeling stressed and bored, and starting to forget all the reasons I have to, need to, and want to quit.

So little doggy got three walks yesterday.  He loves sober Mom!

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Trigger

Day 11 yesterday.

Hey, I’m learning the lingo.  A trigger is something that consistently makes you want to drink.

I discovered one trigger last night.  Something I knew but never thought about in this specific way.  I had a busy day at work, and then I was due to meet the family and go to dinner with hubby’s mom and stepdad.  They were in town for one night as part of another trip they are taking, and we all went out to dinner.

It was arranged that I would walk over to the hotel right from work, while my husband picked up the girls and drove there.  I was delighted at how the timing worked out, because I had a free hour after work before our meeting time.  I used that time  to go the gym (hurray) and then walked over to the hotel.  Just before I got there I pulled out my phone and found my husband had been trying to call me for forty-five minutes.  “Five missed calls, two new voicemails,” my phone informed me.

I am a notorious flake when it comes to my phone.  In fact, I resisted getting a cell phone at all for many years.  I told my husband that this was to save us money, but really it’s because I didn’t want the responsibility.  Remembering to take it with me every time I leave the house.  Remembering to charge it.  Remembering to turn the ringer off for movies and such, and then remembering to turn it on again afterward.  Remembering to check it periodically to see if I missed any calls.  Plus, I just really don’t enjoy being available all the time.  It is, quite literally, being “on call.”

When I called my husband back, he asked me abruptly, sounding stressed, “Are you all right?”  I said I was and I had just forgotten to check my phone, and this made him even more exasperated.  One thing that happened on the day is that my husband was trying to call me repeatedly, while I was busy throwing up and passing out and impaling myself on forks and scaring my daughter to death.  This naturally has made him somewhat jumpy and unsettled whenever he can’t get ahold of me.  He asked me specifically to try to be more conscientious about taking my phone with me and checking it, and I have been, until yesterday.  I don’t think he really thought I was boozing it up on a bar, but he was stressed anyway because he was running late and stuck in traffic with two girls in the car saying over and over again, “Daddy, I’m hungry!  Are we there yet?”

So, I totally understand.  But hearing the snap in his voice immediately triggered in me a combination of guilt (reminder of that day), resentment (hey, I wasn’t drinking, I was at the gym!), an instinct to snap back at him (it was only forty-five minutes, lay off me buddy!), and then an almost overwhelming desire to drown that instinct in a glass of something alcoholic.  My husband and I both have a tendency to get irritable when we are stressed.  When I do it, my husband is really good at staying calm and helping me resolve the source of the stress and not taking my irritability personally.  When he does it, I would love to return the favor, but instead all I want to do is snap back.

I’m sad to say that one way I have discovered to smother that instinct is take a drink.  I’d rather have a drink than have a fight, I would tell myself.  (See how easy that is?  I got to drink AND feel virtuous, almost altruistic about it!  What a good wife!)

So here I was, swimming in all these emotions, standing outside a hotel with the doorman holding the door open for me, and seeing my mother-in-law and stepfather-in-law smiling at me, waiting for me in the lobby.  So what did I do?  What could I do?  I apologized to my husband, I got off the phone, and put a big smile on my face, and went inside.   When my husband arrived, he hugged me and apologized. We had dinner (no one was drinking, thank God), we chatted.  It was a nice meal.

Later that night, after we were home, I tried to tell my husband about this stew of emotions (we’re supposed to be open and honest, right?  Not bottle up our feelings, right?), and he felt so bad.  But he shouldn’t, he really shouldn’t.  He’s an amazing, wonderful, supportive, and forgiving husband, but he’s not perfect, and I can’t let him feel that he has to be perfect for me not to drink.

Sigh.  I’m telling you, this shit’s hard.

Perfect 10

Hey, I finished day 10 yesterday!  Hurray!

This is a landmark not just because I am now in double-digits, but because of something I read in Jason Vale’s book this week:  that it takes 3-10 days for all traces of alcohol to leave your system.  I think most people are generally closer to the “3” than the “10,” but now I can say either way that there is no alcohol lurking anywhere in my body.

Deep breath.  It feels good.

I liked Jason Vale’s book quite a bit.  I read Allen Carr’s book first (which I will review in a future entry), which posits a similar point of view:  that alcohol is addictive, that anyone who drinks is in danger of becoming addicted (not just those with the disease called “alchoholism”), and that by not drinking it you are missing out on nothing. Alcohol is a poison whose so-called “benefits” are entirely illusory.  It’s a powerful concept and it does help to lessen the regret I feel about not being able to drink.  I can’t say right now that it does away with it completely, but I have hopes that I will get there.

The books equation of alcohol with any other addictive drug is illuminating and helped me to develop a strategy for dealing with temptation.  You know that feeling, whether it’s a bar, grocery store, drugstore, wherever, when you see those rows and rows of bottles, beautifully displayed and ripe for the picking?  It helps me to see them as rows and rows of hypodermic needles, filled with heroin.  Doesn’t sound so appealing anymore, does it?  I’m sure heroin, crack, and meth feel absolutely great when you take them!  Does that mean I want to try them?  No, because I know they are highly addictive and ruin people’s lives.  Alcohol too is highly addictive and ruins people’s lives; the evidence of that is all around me and always has been.  But because it is embedded in our society, I never thought about it the same way.

Happy Hour

Day 8 yesterday.

Uneventful day on the drinking front — that is to say the “quitting drinking” front.  There was one moment, as I walked toward my bus stop at the end of the work day, anticipating going home and starting my evening.  “And I’ll pour myself a nice brandy … ”

Oh, wait. No I won’t.

It was like a dash of cold water in the face, remembering.    Yesterday was not a stressful day at work, the sun was shining, I had no reason to feel unhappy.  But I did.  For a moment I went through a flurry of thoughts, that went something like this:  what was I thinking, saying I’m going to stop entirely?  Why not just cut down?  There were always all kinds of situations where I could drink and not have a problem.  Why don’t a just say that I’ll only drink in those situations?  But oh wait, I’ve tried to do that many times before.  How many times did make up all kinds of different rules for myself?  Only drinking after 5 … only drinking with dinner … only drinking wine, no spirits … only drinking three days a week … only having one drink a day.  How well did those rules work for me?  Well, they all did.

Until they didn’t.

So I got on the bus feeling rather subdued.  When I got home I made myself a grapefruit spritzer and had some cheese and crackers.  I sat down for five minutes with my eyes closed, concentrating on my breathing, meditating.  The idea is to give myself a different signal that the work day is over, that it’s happy hour now.

 

Dinner Party

Yesterday was day 7 for me being sober.

I encountered — and cleared — a hurdle:  my first dinner party.

My heart was actually pounding on the way over.  I wasn’t worried as much about being tempted (though I was worried about that too), as in how to navigate the social waters.  Which is stupid.  Was I expecting our hosts to say “Not drinking?  Get out of my house!”  Of course they wouldn’t, and they didn’t.

But, but, but …

My seven year old daughter watched the American Girl: Felicity movie this weekend.  This is by the makers of the American Girl dolls, and is set in 1775.  One scene involves Felicity being taught to be a proper lady and how to take tea.  When she refuses a biscuit, her chaperone lectures her that taking the biscuit is not about the biscuit, but about accepting your hostess’s hospitality.  In other words, you need to take it whether you want it or not.

What is offering alcohol but the grown-up version of this?  When we have a dinner party, what to do we do when our guests arrive?  We take their coats, ask how they are, and then offer alcoholic drinks.  When we offer beer and wine to our guests, we are saying, “I am welcoming you to my home.  I want to you to feel comfortable and have a good time.” And when our guests accept, they are saying, “We accept your hospitality.  We are here to have a good time in your home.”  Isn’t there always a slight  — very, very slight — chill when people say “Oh, I’ll just have water”?

One tip I read this week on a sobriety blog was always to bring a non-alcoholic drink with you to a dinner party.  Not just one, but a six pack of something fancy, like Pellegrino, or a bottle of sparkling cider.  This is a sober person’s equivalent of the six pack of beer or the bottle of wine that guests often bring as a hostess gift.  It’s win/win/win because a) it’s a gift, always a nice gesture, b) it gives you something non-alcoholic to drink, and c) it’s special, so it signals “I’m here to have a good time.”

So that’s what I did.  We brought a six pack of orange Pellegrino.  When my hostess offered me wine, I pretended to hesitate and then said “Oh, maybe I’ll just have one of these Pellegrinos for now.”  My husband hemmed and hawed before settling on water, and told me afterwards that he almost felt like he should drink because I wasn’t!

Then later, before dinner, my hostess was getting out the wine glasses and asked me again if I wanted wine.  I said, “Maybe just some water.”  My husband was out the room so she asked me I thought he would want some.  Again I said, “Oh, probably just water for him too.”  Then I laughed a little and said, “We’re so boring.”  Maybe it’s silly that I felt the need to be self-deprecating, but I felt better for saying it.

Anyway, I had a wonderful time.  I drank my Pellegrino while my hosts had beer and wine. We ate and talked and laughed, and when my hostess offered tea or coffee after dinner, I was able to happily accept.