Holiday Parties in Sobriety

IMG_0059Year two of holiday parties in sobriety, and a perfect opportunity to put some knowledge into practice.  A few tips I learned from trial and error last year but many were learned right here from my fellow sober bloggers.  Each and every one of you are deeply appreciated.   Hurrah for collective wisdom!

December 2014 saw quite a few holiday celebrations right here at home including a staff party, book club dinner party, Christmas  Eve dinner with extended family, and a three family Christmas dinner fete.  Home was a good place to be.  For one, hostessing kept me busy taking care of others.  The other key to celebrating at home is that it allows me to envision and carry out a plan without many curve balls thrown in.

The 3 keys to hosting parties and having great fun while sober this year turned out to be:

1.  Have a plan.  In early sobriety we spend a whole lot of time making plans.  What time will people arrive and leave? What will I drink?  What will others drink? Where can I get away for ten minutes from time to time to read recovery literature and refocus? Who is my support team at the event? Have I clarified their roles with them? Which AA meeting will I attend the day of the event?

2. Have another person handle the alcohol.  Don’t play the part of the suffering hero.  Just have someone else be the bartender.  At the end of the event, have the bartender pack up the bar and toss out the half finished drinks laying around. That person will be glad to help.

3.  Have fun.  Taking the time, making the time, to celebrate with friends is a new concept in my life.  Focusing on others helps me get out of my head which would normally be focused on the alcohol with laser vision, and opens up the world to the people in my life. Turns out my world was so small when drinking and I missed out on the amazingness around me.  Its time to enjoy friendship again.

Coming soon: the backstory of these keys. Because we all know, there’s always a backstory!

Thirsty Games Movie Review

Movie Review of Hunger Games 1 and 3:

hunger games Hunger Games – Haymitch

  • always drinking
  • concerned about whether or not alcohol would be available at all times
  • hid alcohol so as never to be without
  • comfortably uncomfortable character in a movie

Hunger Games opening night – Me

  • carefully planned drinking before the show
  • concerned about not having alcohol during the entire movie
  • hid alcohol so as to have a few last sips before going into the movie started
  • uncomfortably comfortable person in my own skin

mocking joyMockingjay part 1 – Haymitch

  • completely sober and aware of everything
  • imposed sobriety due to a lack of provisions in District 13
  • looking fit and trim
  • would likely dive back into drinking at the first opportunity

Mockingjay part 1 – Me

  • completely sober and aware of most everything (except when trying to figure out what my post would be about tonight and deciding whether to go to the gym in the morning or not.  Haymitch. No.)
  • chose sobriety of my own free will
  • looking fit and trim
  • will not drink today

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The Time Warp, aka Recovery Week

Part 3 of a 4 part story wherein our heroin bumbles through a dark tunnel.

The intake meeting ended with these take aways:clock

  • 3 nights a week at the medical health center plus 12 step meetings meant that my social life was pretty much wiped out for 1/4 of a year.  During the holidays.
  • This was better than the possibility that seemed to be considered to just send me straight to the hospital for detox.
  • The counselor got all show offy with the office staff and had them rearrange the schedule of the medical doctor on staff so she could see me tomorrow. (bad judgment call on my end it turns out, my health was honestly at risk)
  • Paperwork and specific directions to get to the hospital immediately if the shaking intensified.  The fear of seizures was real.  Alcohol detox is the one type of detox that can actually result in death.  Great, as if not drinking wasn’t awful enough.  Now the risk of death enters the picture.

At home, I finally had the talk with my husband. Told him about needing to quit, about the recovery plan, about the schedule, about the possibility of seizures.  Cried over being so lost, hurting the family. Cried out of fear. Lots and lots of fear. Looked at the paperwork and what to watch out for regarding seizures. His mom went through recovery when he was a young teen and he had a much better idea than I did about what was to come. In my mind, this whole thing was still completely overblown. Alcohol was just that tiny, itty bitty splinter. Once removed, life would be glorious because I had set it all up that way.

Woke up at 2am shaking. Withdrawals. Woke up again at 5am shaking.Withdrawals.  Went to work shaking. Couldn’t think. Didn’t know what to do with myself.  Withdrawals. 90% of my brain is trying to figure out how to hold it together leaving not nearly enough to breathe, walk, and work.  Went home and didn’t know what to do. Hour by hour I told myself.  Hour?!  10 minutes by 10 minutes was still too long. Went to the appointment with the medical doctor. Put my hands out so she could judge how much they were shaking.  It was crazy. She smiled but couldn’t find anything polite to say like “its not too bad,” because the shaking was ridiculous. More plans, some type of prescriptions. Drove home and ten-minuted it through about 40 minutes. No way I could figure out what to do with myself all evening. So, I jumped in the car and drove back to the medical center to join the recovery group 4 days early.

Now we’re entering totally new territory.  Group therapy, heck any type of therapy, was completely new to me. A nice group of people sat in a circle and talked about stuff, more stuff, making plans for attending events sober, and other stuff. What in the world? No one was talking about surviving the craziness in my head. How to get through the next 10 minutes. How to fill that time spent drinking. All of it. As it crept by. Slowly. But group filled time so it was useful.

Attending a 12 step meeting was the next order of business. I got a list of places and times for the next town over and staked them out. Visiting a meeting of AA with all of those pathetic alcoholics was going to be the most shameful part of this whole thing. I mean, really. Sitting for an hour with people who were losers of the greatest magnitude was a miserable idea. But I went. Turns out, they were everyday people you’d meet at the store or business venture. They were well spoken, thoughtful, and funny. Funny! Listening to them talk, an “aha” moment occurred – we spoke the same language. We had the same story. It was my first glimpse of what was possible.

Next: part 4 of 4 wherein our heroin shares her cleverest, most hidden secrets and finds an unexpected reaction.

It is my hope that by sharing my story, others can find strength and hope to find a way to overcome their obstacles, alcohol or otherwise.

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Drinking Dreams

Bring imagesup the topic of drinking dreams to any recovery group and the the place will light up with stories. Funny, frightening, nerve-racking, unbelievable, believable, and just plain old crazy stories are shared by each of us.  Last night I had my second drinking dream with the same theme: apathy.

Being home alone last night, so I took the opportunity to watch / fast forward through my guilty pleasure TV shows of the week.  Truth be told, without a DVR and fast forward button, there’s no chance I’d use my time on any of these.  1) The Voice.  Amazing to see the growth in the performers over just two weeks.  Way to go! 2) Top Chef.  That fast forward button is key here at the start of the season when the editors have a habit of focusing on the stories of the next people to be cut.  3) Project Runway reunion.  Tim Gunn!  Tim Gunn! Tim Gunn!  And a note to Amanda: consider me in line for your next season of clothing.

So, let’s set the stage here.  Relaxed, letting calm random thoughts wander, see some wine, take note that there is no interest at all, take note about how easy it would be to open a bottle and have a glass just to unwind, laugh at even entertaining that thought, back to TV on the couch with the dog. On to bed and hearing the neighbor with the RC truck racing around the neighborhood.

The drinking dream woke me up terrified.  In my dream, I came across some vodka that had been hidden back in the day.  It was already opened and over half empty.  I figured that I needed to finish it off so it would be gone. Half went into a drink and I went along my merry way.  Feeling totally tipsy, I went back because I needed more.  Needed it.  In the next morning of the dream, I managed to convince myself that finishing the alcohol was all a part of the process.  No one would know and I refused to start my sober days over.  Heck, I could even do that again because it was a part of the healing process now.  And then I woke up.

Ack! The fear of apathy, complacency, lack of resolve is real.

Today, all has been good.  I’m working my program with purpose.  There are no worries, fears, or “What if’s.”  But boy oh boy was that dream of complacency unnerving.

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

suncare-1440x900“I took off for a weekend last month
Just to try and recall the whole year.
All of the faces and all of the places,
wonderin’ where they all disappeared.
I didn’t ponder the question too long;
I was hungry and went out for a bite.
Ran into a chum with a bottle of rum,
and we wound up drinkin’ all night.”

Ok, all but the last bit, but the song just doesn’t sound right without it.  This past weekend was spent sick in bed with plenty of time to read, dawdle, and think back to this time last year.  One year ago, a week of sobriety had been survived and I hadn’t died quite yet.  My therapist made sure I was always close to a hospital while waiting to get into the 14 day outpatient program.  One year ago was three days into the program, soaking up all of the learning, comparing myself to everyone else in the program, thankful that it filled up so many hours of the day.  But the sharing of stories hadn’t started quite yet and I was still burdened by the dark secret that I had done things that no one would ever believe, that the depths of my desperation were unimaginable.

When those stories started to be shared, for once I found a kinship with others who shared that silent suffering.  Sharing my story, with all of its horrible secrets, and looking up to see a circle of women nodding, smiling, and giggling in understanding was the first taste of freedom.  Letting those secrets out into the world, slowly realizing that I am not uniquely alone in this disease, and that the shared burden could possibly be lifted, allowed me a peek at the possibilities of recovery ahead.  All of those faces from all of those places … how are they faring today?

“It’s those changes in latitudes,
changes in attitudes nothing remains quite the same.
With all of our running and all of our cunning,
If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”

All of those years running towards and running away are certainly not missed.  The pressure to maintain appearances and cunning ways to keep the disease alive no longer consume me.

The stories shared openly here in the sober blogosphere remind me that if we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.  Your stories are a big part of my continued sobriety today.

Oh, These Food Cravings!

My goodness, people, what is it with these food cravings?

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The coffee craving for the first 4 months or so was just ludicrous.  Starbucks has a loyalty program? Who know?!  Finding a late night fix was such a challenge.  Mornings were always an easy time to find coffee. Afternoons were also doable. But evenings and night times were such a challenge!  With all of the night time meetings of one sort or another, getting a cup of joe on the way there or back brought me to all sorts of gas stations where I crossed my fingers for a bit of old, pathetic coffee. Like many people, soda wasn’t going to do the job because the carbonation brought back too many links to the drinking, and those links were still raw and painful. So coffee it was, wherever it could be found.

Then it moved on to the desire for crunch.  Veggies could fill the need for short bits of time, but potato chips were so much more satisfying!  Keeping in mind that this is just a craving to be satisfied and not a binge, a grab bag of Ruffles can last for 3 days.  Ruffles and I have made our peace with each other.

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It was this next disgusting phase that embarrasses me the most.  Go ahead and laugh out loud: frozen chocolate chip cookie dough.  Just the dough.  Oh for the love of butter, sugar and chocolate, this was amazing!  Homemade dough, portioned into cookie sized balls, frozen.  The idea is to have them on hand to just pop into the oven for a quick plate of cookies.  But I never even turned on the oven.  To make matters worse, I kept them in the freezer in the garage as if they were truly intended for some day when the cookies would indeed be baked,  and had to sneak them into the house. This was a complete throwback to my behaviors when sneaking alcohol into the house.  The familiarity of that behavior and guilt and excitement all wrapped together was unnerving to say the least.  With some reasonable self-control my weight didn’t balloon, but the pleasing pattern of weight loss did come to a halt.  I figured that the frozen chocolate chip cookie dough phase would pass, and eventually it did, but boy oh boy could I have done with a shortened time spent in that delicious craziness.  

Looking for a replacement, I tried a few candies that would be easy to keep with me during our scorching summers.  Starburst was a good candidate.  Sugary, flavorful, tiny.  There was one huge problem though – when biting into some of the intensely fruity flavors, my first thought could easily go to “this would be great with dark rum.”  So, Starburst have been  nixed from the list.

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Currently, I’m on a completely socially acceptable ice-cream kick.  During the day I stave off the cravings with just a handful of frozen blueberries.  At night I give into the lovely ice-cream. To keep the weight under check, I’m becoming an expert on which lower fat brands still have the rich mouth feel of the good stuff. One optimistic day I gave mango sorbet a try.  Good stuff if you’re not on an ice-cream kick and just want something cold and tasty.  Instead I give in to Talenti gelato in a ramekin to keep portion sizes under control.  An added bonus is that the ice-cream brings back wonderful memories from my childhood.  It wasn’t until I had moved away for college that I realized that not everyone eats ice-cream every single night with their father.  So the ice-cream is both a throw back to my childhood and satisfies a craving.

Reading about food cravings in the sober recovery blogosphere, its clear that the food cravings are par for the course.  Right now in fact, FitFatFood is challenging herself to a 21 day chocolate detox and inviting others to join her.  Way to go!

What have been your cravings?  How do you keep them reigned in?  And for those with more time on this recovery journey, do the cravings resolve themselves or are they something to be resolved through good old work?

Recovering the Natural Capacity to Listen

In my worst, I’m able to fully convince myself that it is indeed me who is in charge.  In charge of my drinking and how to keep it going. In charge of knowledge that there are no real thoughts and feelings because I know full well that it can all be broken down to chemicals and synapses.  You see, I know this.  And that makes me in charge.  And it makes me right.

And oh, that is exactly what propelled my down the road with my best friend, alcohol.  Knowing I was right, and everyone else was just full of empty wishes, was my downfall.  Still today, it creeps back into my mind and takes up residence in its comfortable home.  Recently I’ve been taking specific steps to make that home less comfortable.  

These steps have proven to be beneficial:

1.  Force myself to listen without judgement.

2.  Make myself willing to consider other views, or better yet, open myself to the wisdom of others without considering anything.

3.  At the end of each day, actually writing down at least one example of these from my actual experience that day: Gratitude, Good, Glitch, Goal.  

4.  Read aloud this excerpt from Thomas Merton at least 4 times daily:

“The reality that is present to us and in us:

call it Being … Silence.

And the simple fact that by being attentive by learning to listen

(or recovering the natural capacity to listen)

we can find ourself engulfed in such happiness that it cannot be explained:

the happiness of being at one with everything in that hidden ground of love

for which there can be no explanations …

May we al grow in grace and peace,

and not neglect the silence that is printed in the centre of our being.

It will not fail us.”

 

Recovering the natural capacity to listen.  Amazing.