Two steps forward, one step back

I’ve been away for awhile. I have a new sobriety date, Oct. 17, 2018. Things really seemed to click into place this time. I haven’t been thinking about drinking. I stopped smoking cigarettes. I didn’t go to AA this time, although I go to meetings here and there. Sometimes I just like to be in a room full of sober people. I use things I picked up from AA, hip sobriety, blogs, podcasts. It works most of the time. But…

Last week, I had a really stressful interview and picked up a pack of cigarettes. I’ve been smoking about one cigarette a day. It’s not great, but it could be worse. I don’t know if it was the impending snowstorm last night, but I really wanted a drink. I passed a liquor store and nearly stopped. Later on, I was looking through old photos of me drinking. I thought it might make me look bad and stupid and make me not want to drink. But, I got really nostalgic. It made my life now look super boring. I talked to a friend who’s also in recovery and it helped a lot. I was so sad, thinking about my mundane life. But…

As it turns out, sometimes sadness is a good thing. I’m not sad because I’m sober. I’m sad because my life is boring. And sometimes sadness can bring about change. I’m not sure what it’s going to look like, but I will not go quietly into that good night. I’m going to fight for the life I want. To be continued.

Meetups and sisters and OMG

It was Sunday, I was off work the next day. I didn’t have any intention to drink. But, I had helped my next door neighbor by picking up a box from her front porch and holding it for her while she was out of town. She came to my door, I gave her he box and she handed me a bottle of wine. I thanked her and then was alone with it. I thought for a moment to dump it out, but that thought left as quickly as it had come. A stronger thought replaced it – I can drink this wine, I don’t have plans today and I’m off work tomorrow. It was 11 am and I opened the bottle and finished it within the hour. It was not something I would choose, it tastes watered down and too sweet. But still, I drank. A few hours later, I sobered up and took my dog to the dog park. On the way home, another lovely thought came through. I have already fucked up my sobriety, I’ll just go pick up some beer. So I dropped my dog off at home and swung by the liquor store. I had five over the course of the evening. I didn’t even feel drunk. I felt lonely, which is a feeling that has become too familiar. So, while finishing off those beers, I decided to start a meetup group for sober people. I desperately need to find my tribe. So, I scheduled a couple of events before I drifted off to sleep.

Over the next couple of days, people started joining. As of today, a week later I have over 60 members. People seem excited. But, of course it is not that easy. I had my first meetup event. Only 1 person RSVP’d. I still went, I didn’t want this one person to show up and have no one there. I waited and waited but she didn’t show. But still, I felt calm. Something in me said, “this is what it takes to find your tribe.” So, I am still hopeful and excited about this group. My best friend even seems excited and she’s a drinker. She joined the group to support me, but also she wants to meet new people and doesn’t care that there won’t be booze. So amazing. But, not everyone is as amazing as my best friend, my sister from another mister. My actual sister, from the same mister, said that she would come to events. I told her sure, as long as she doesn’t drink at them. And she’s says, “I can have a beer, what are they going to do, ban me?” And I said “I would ban you.” And she went on to explain that she had no problem not drinking, but really didn’t see the harm in drinking at a sober event if there was alcohol available. So a restaurant or a bar or whatnot. Okay, I was slightly horrified by the suggestion that she would piss on my group by drinking at a sober event. Stupid me for telling her anything.

Angry and grateful

Today I was angry. For awhile I beat myself up about it, thinking this is what I get for doing a crap program. But then, I thought, Fuck. This. Let me be angry. Let me be pissed off at being dumped on at work. Let me be pissed off at my chronic back pain. You see, I don’t know how to sit in that pissed off feeling. My first go-to thought is that there’s something wrong with me for having genuine, human, angry feelings. And guess what happened after I really allowed myself to stew in those feelings? After I blasted some K.Flay on the stereo in my car, I started to let the silver linings creep in. I don’t really hate my job or my coworkers, I’m just having a bad day. And I also found a really great Groupon for a deep tissue massage and I have the funds to pay for it. Angry and grateful, I can be both.

So, let’s back up. About three weeks ago, I found myself working a 12 step program, going to AA meetings and working with a sponsor. This tension started building. I don’t know where it came from, but it started small and got bigger and bigger. Friday night rolls around and all I can think about is that I want a drink. Not just any drink, but an ice cold IPA. Literally, this is all I can think about. But, there’s still a part of me that wants to be sober. I’ll admit that at that moment, my biggest motivation was that I wanted to keep my 4/20 sobriety date. I also really liked my sponsor and I didn’t want to lose her. These are not the best reasons for staying sober. Sobriety felt more and more like a punishment. I felt like there was something wrong with me if I couldn’t drink the way the rest of the world could. I felt so other. But still, I called my sponsor on my way home from work. No answer. I texted a sober friend of mine that I wanted to drink. I told her not to worry, I was headed to an AA meeting. She said all the right things and I went to that meeting. The meeting ended. I still wanted to drink. I left the meeting and went to the liquor store. While I was still deciding on whether or not to go in, I watched the guy that works there shut off the lights and lock the door. I thought, “that was close.” I went home, drank some seltzer, smoked a cigarette and went to bed. The next morning, I went to another AA meeting. It was a great meeting where I ran into some friends. That afternoon, I still really wanted to drink. But, I decided to take my bike out onto the trail and bike my ass off, which I did. As I was on the last leg of my ride, I just kept thinking, the weather is so great, I’d love to sit out on my deck and have a beer. And that is exactly what I did. As I was drinking this guava infused IPA, I thought how this beer felt like a gift. I convinced myself that as long as I didn’t overindulge and take this gift for granted, I could keep on drinking. I drank moderately for 2 weeks and everything was going really well. The experiment was a success! I felt so relieved! I was normal, and I could go back to the land of the living.

But then, a tragedy happened. A gunman walked into the Capital Gazette newspaper office and shot and killed 5 people. This was a place I did my first photography internship when I was 19 yrs old. It was a lifetime ago, but I had met a couple of the reporters that died. I had hung out with one of the victims a few times 3 or 4 years ago. I didn’t know her well and it was always in a group with my ex’s friends. I didn’t know any of them well, it didn’t feel like I had any right to claim this tragedy. But I could picture her laughing and joking like it was yesterday. I can only imagine what she went through in the last moments of her life and what her family’s going through now. That moderate drinking I was doing turned into binge drinking. While I grieved for those 5 people and their families, I just kept on drinking. There was just no off switch that night.

The next day, I had one of the worst hangovers of my life. I realized that I can only be a moderate drinker when everything is going along fine. But, things aren’t always fine. There are going to be national tragedies as well as personal. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked in newspapers. Now, I’m an oncology nurse. I am constantly in a state of grief. That Monday morning, after my binging, I walked into work to find out a patient I knew really well had died. There is going to be sadness. I’m not going to quit my job and go work exclusively with puppies to escape the grief. I have to learn to live through it, sit with it. And, I can’t do that with alcohol.

That Saturday, during one of the worst hangovers of my life, I went to a blog I tend to go to when I’ve slipped yet again, Hip Sobriety. I read through some of the old posts which seem to give me hope. It turned out that the Hip Sobriety School’s first ever summer course was open for registration in just a few days. I thought this was crazy perfect timing. There’s seriously no other time in my life that I would have splurged and signed up. I’ve been in AA for 2 and a half years, and no sobriety to show for it. Some things about it just never sat well for me. In all of my bones, I felt like I just could not show up to another meeting for another 24 hour chip and try to work a program I didn’t believe in. I called my sponsor and told her I just couldn’t be part of AA anymore. But, I also told her I wasn’t giving up, that I was going to sign up for Hip Sobriety School and I still had a lot of hope. She listened, told me I was brave for trying something new and said that she doesn’t care whether it’s AA or another program that works for me as long as something works. I am so grateful for her.

So, now I’m just 7 days sober, the course starts in 3 days and I’m looking forward to this next big adventure. Maybe it’ll be a huge waste of money, or, maybe it’ll change my life.

Getting sober is hard

I’ve been on this journey for 2 years and I have 4 days of sobriety. Every time I have drank again, I have thought, this doesn’t matter. I didn’t lose anything, I can drink and if I want to get sober, it’s easy, I just stop again. I know what tools are out there. Part of this is true, I do have tools, sobriety is always there if I want it. But, I think I’m doing myself a disservice to say that it has been easy. If I let myself accept that getting sober is hard and it does matter, I can keep it close and fight for it.

When I was a kid, everything felt like life or death. Just living was hard. I was such a sensitive kid, I had no control over my emotions. But somewhere down the line, I convinced myself that life was just one big game. I know it was self preservation. I couldn’t handle the weight of the world, so I made a decision that none of it really mattered. At the time, this decision made my life a lot better. Even my mother noticed and would tell me even as an adult how as a young child I made a change in myself and she was so impressed. I’m not impressed. I never learned how to deal with my emotions, I decided that they just weren’t that important. And now, at 34 years old, I have to reteach myself that they are important. I’m never going to get better if I continue to believe that nothing matters. Life isn’t just one big game. The hard part is that it isn’t black and white. I shouldn’t take myself so seriously, but I do have to take some things seriously. Sobriety does matter, I matter, the decisions I make today matter. Intellectually I know this. But I know my deep rooted thoughts from childhood are still way below the surface and they can come out at any time. It does matter that I stay sober. Drinking that bottle of wine mattered. It was a slip, a stumble, it doesn’t have to define me, but it still matters, and it was real. It really happened, I can’t pretend that it didn’t.

My goal today is to take sobriety seriously and to tell my sponsor about my slip. I called her last night but she didn’t answer. It doesn’t get me off the hook. I will call her again today and tell her.