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!

In the Stuck for the Second Time

stuckPeople giggle when I tell them that I love to be second. Second to try out some new technology. Second time in an exercise class. Second hike along a trail. Second meetings with old friends so we can move past the surface stories and get to the good stuff. Second visit to just about any place or event is better than the first because I can better navigate the situation. Number 2 is my number 1.

Of course the huge exception to this is sobriety. Knowing now what it took to get through those first few months, I’m not sure that I’m tough like that to do that again.

The past few days I’ve been in the Stuck. Just hanging out here, looking around, knowing that it isn’t a healthy nor safe place to relax. There are clear signs: dawdling, excessive time lurking on Facebook, isolating, noticing the places where I bought alcohol in the past, noticing the places where I hid it, and getting completely rattled by any talk of God in AA meetings.  Its as if my senses have all returned to where they were 14 months ago. Familiar territory is not a supportive place in this mind space.  But, I recognize it this time around.  What a relief!  Today I took an inventory of my thinking and clearly saw it for what it was, which is darned close to the thinking that had me convinced it was brilliant back before sobriety became the new norm. To simply recognize this Stuck for what it is gets me on the road to moving beyond it.

1st time in the stuck: 2 weeks to realize where I was.

2nd time in the stuck: 3 days to realize where I was.  The point goes to 2nd time!

The first time in the Stuck, getting out was so many levels of miserable.  A few actions were simple and had an immediate and strong effect: change driving patterns, keep forcing myself to physically move and not sit still.  Changing driving patterns was a tactic that helped me more than would seem reasonable in the first two or three months of sobriety.  By driving in different patterns, it forced my mind to think and see things differently.  The payoff for this simple change was significant.  By keeping myself moving, regardless of whether or not something actually needed to be accomplished, kept me from dawdling and lurking, which kept me in the moment.  Again, a fairly simple tactic that paid large dividends.

The huge hurdle to get out of the Stuck the first time around was dealing with the God thing in AA.  Or more specifically, the way I chose to interpret the spiritual portion of the AA program.  In this state of mind, I can talk myself into crazy states based solely on the second step: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to
sanity. And here’s how the crazy starts and spirals out of control:

  • Since I don’t personally believe at this time that a power greater than myself dabbles in individual people and their individual challenges
  • Then I cannot turn my will over to a higher power
  • Which puts me firmly in control
  • The same need for absolute control that contributed to my drinking getting so out of hand
  • The same control I am not willing to give up at this moment
  • Which means that AA is not for me
  • Because I am terminally unique and all of those people who got sober working the 12 steps are full of hog wash.  All of them.
  • Because I am the only person who could ever come up with the correct answer to these big questions
  • Which means that I’m going to go this alone
  • While all of those ignorant people keep sitting in AA meetings

To which all I can ask myself is, “Really?!” The first time in the Stuck, that line of seemingly reasonable thinking had me riled up all day and tossing and turning all night. Now, the second time around, I realize that a different approach is needed.

An entry point is all I need to get back on track, and being an overachiever, I found two. The first is in step 1, I admit that I am powerless over alcohol. At the very core of my being I know for a solid fact that no alcohol at all can enter my body with any hope of me retaining my sobriety. The possibility for moderation is nil. It is strangely soothing to know this is a 100% truth and need not be tested. The second entry point is from further down the list in step 11, meditation. Meditation practice to be more precise. I practice meditation more and more often because in my experience, when my mind is clear and calm, the walls come down, thinking clears, and personal relationships thrive. Through meditation practice I am able to pull myself out of the Stuck.

1st time in the stuck: 3 weeks to pull myself out.

2nd time in the stuck: 2 days to get back on track. Again, the point goes to 2nd time!

It is my hope that by sharing my story of recovery, it will help others who walk this road by my side, and give hope to those who are ready to begin.

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No Worries (to set free)

NaBloPoMo topworryic offering for today: If you could permanently get rid of one worry, what would it be?

None.  None that I have any teensy weensy bit of control over.

My parents are about to hit 90, living in their own home, and even with their age related health challenges, they are doing darned well. I worry about losing them.  I worry about my ability to care for them as unpredictable situations arise.  But, with a good support system, all will be fine.  These are healthy worries that will keep me focused on what is important.

Becoming complacent in my recovery program is a huge worry.  I’ve seen first hand what happens when others in recovery try to wing it.  Not a pretty sight.  The challenge is to stay true to what works even when feeling just dandy.  Yes, complacency is a sizable fear.  It needs to stay that way.

There are serious worries that I feel powerless to overcome: non-scientists who cannot wrap their non-scientific minds around climate change and write that information out of textbooks so kids cannot grow up to be valid scientists and help us out of the rut we knowingly put ourselves into, men in power who degrade women by day by not allowing women to make choices about their own bodies in their day job and degrade women at night by paying for services rendered, and too big to fail corporations being treated as people and having an unfair advantage in our elections elections. But that’s for another day.

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Check out the Peppers at Nano Poblano for a ridiculously wide variety of blogs you really need to meet.

30 Day Challenge Challenge

30 day challengeStarting projects is one of my favorite pastimes.  New projects, fun projects, useful projects, whimsical projects are each such a thrill in their own rite.  The followthrough, of course, is the challenging part. The very challenging part. Same with the cleaning up afterwards part.

Matt Cutts’ TED talk taught me 2 things: the variety of possible 30 day challenges is beyond imagination, and after completing one challenge, we can do another.  Gasp!

NaBloPoMo is a 30 day challenge shared by thousands.  The discipline of posting daily is already getting challenging, but building community is a huge pay off.  My hope is that by sharing my experiences, others will find strength and hope on their own journey or to better understand friends or family members.

Along with this, because one 30 day challenge simply isn’t enough, my sponsor and I are doing a 14 day challenge.  But, we keep missing a day here and there, so it may take us 30 days to get 14 consecutive days strung together.  Hint: setting an alarm on our phones to remind us to do our 4Gs is proving helpful.  The 4Gs reflection is to simply give an example of each of these 4Gs each day:

  1. Good: what was good about today?
  2. Grateful: what are you grateful for today?
  3. Glitch: what didn’t go well or could have been handled better today?
  4. Goal: what is a goal for tomorrow?

Stopping each day to reflect about where we are and where we want to be has been a positive influence and tends to keep the lists from running through my head at night.  So, my 4Gs for today are:

  • Good: laughing with coworkers at lunch, talking about the amazing dancing in Chicago
  • Grateful: Jeanne and the meditation classes we attend together
  • Glitch: Slept through spin class this morning
  • Goal: Make time for one person I don’t talk with often

I’d love to hear your own 4Gs in the comments below.

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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?