We Are All Winners

There is something inside me that I’ve really struggled to put into words the last month or two.    When I have had the time and energy, I’ve pulled it out and turned it around and around, like one of those accessory spinners you see at a jewelry boutique.  A thought or phrase will catch my eye or make my heart jump and for a moment I think I’ve found it, but then I think “something just isn’t quite right…” or “perhaps there’s a better way to say it.”  So I stay quiet and keep thinking, and keep waiting.

Sometimes I fear I will spend my whole life waiting.

I’ve always been a perfectionist.  Second best isn’t good enough – if I don’t win I am furious with myself.  I berate myself for not being faster, or not having the answer first.  I “should on” myself – you should have done this, or said this, or known that.  Constant regrets of not being who I need to be to win (at school, at work, at life) flood my mind on a daily basis.

Over the past year I’ve been able to strengthen my ability to eliminate these thoughts…or at least ignore them when they do bubble up.  But I’ve found it more difficult when it comes to sobriety.

I have met and corresponded with the most amazing women this last year.  These women are young, old, creative, loud, mothers, single, bright, big, strong, smart, beautiful, tough, compassionate, and either sober or trying to get sober. They are my role models, my tribe.  They inspire me and they make me feel less alone.

But still.

I find that I compare myself to them – I compete with them.

Not:

“I want to beat them at this sober game…”

But:

“I don’t post daily status updates about how wonderful sobriety is so I must not be doing this right”

“I don’t comment on everyone’s pleas for support so I’m not compassionate and supportive enough”

“I’m not loud and in your face like Holly and thus I’m not bright enough to make an impact”

“The women that are sober on their own, without Antabuse or other meds are stronger than me”

“I don’t express myself in words as eloquently as Laura does, so my voice doesn’t deserve to be heard”

“I’m only at 18 straight sober days…who am I to be an admin member of the site?”

“I don’t go to AA on a regular basis…eventually I’ll realize I’m a phony and will relapse”

“Sometimes I hate being sober.  How do they love it all the time?”

“I don’t meditate, practice yoga, pray, read, use essential oils, (fill in the blank) enough.  I don’t do any of this enough”

“I am not enough”

“I am not winning”

“I am going to fail”

I have focused so much lately on doing this sobriety thing the “right way” that I have forgotten what the goal is.  It’s not about yoga or herbal tea or memoirs or AA or being mindful all the time; it’s about NOT DRINKING.  That’s it.  Simple as that.  It doesn’t matter how I do it, or who I am, or what lifestyle I’m living.  It’s just saying no.  It’s hitting that craving away with a baseball bat.  It’s ignoring the want.  It’s killing the desire.  If all that other stuff helps me do that, then great.  But if the only way I can resist holding that bottle to my lips one day is by tying myself to the bed, or by placing nails on the floor so I can’t walk, or by deflating my tires so I can’t drive to the liquor store…then I have won.  I have still stayed sober another day.  It is not possible to fail if I have done this one simple thing.

I made the decision to get sober so that I could live the best life possible.  That life doesn’t exist for me if I drink.  In that life I want to include more yoga and more meditation and more mindfulness.  I want to blog and create and sing at the top of my lungs.

But it’s ok if I don’t.

IT IS OK.

I will get there, in time.  I am – in this moment – right where I need to be.  This path is mine and mine alone and there are no rules, time limits or standards to measure myself against.   There isn’t one, right path.  Each of us is on our own …our own uniquely, beautiful, perfect path created just for us.  We can all learn from each other and share in the experience, but the most important thing to remember is that this is a solo race – one in which every single one of us is in first place.

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The Other Side

I think that drinking is officially ruined for me.  Even if I can learn how to moderate it, the experience will never be the same.  Some part of me will always feel guilty or wrong for picking up the glass.  I will always be thinking to myself “am I controlling myself…am I moderating?”

One of the first books on drinking I read was Allen Carr’s “Easy way to Control Alcohol”. His view is that everyone is an “alcoholic” in some way…we are all just in different points along the spectrum.  Some get further and faster along this spectrum than others.  I was skeptical when I read it but now I’m beginning to understand.  I think the moment I decided to question my drinking, I reached a point of no return.  From that moment on, I would look at my drinking under a microscope.

After I was sober for 30 days, I drank the next weekend.  It was nothing dramatic and nothing major happened.  But I just couldn’t shake this feeling of overall “shittiness”.  I felt like a fraud.  Although I had to be dragged into doing the 30 days kicking and screaming, in the end I realized I was the happiest I’d been in a really long time. I had actually begun to love myself.  I was proud of who I was becoming.  And then I drank.  And I didn’t feel that way anymore.  I felt like I was taking steps backwards.  To a place of plainness.  “Plain” is the only word I think I can use here.  I just felt like I was going back to a life that was less shiny, less bright.  A dull life I didn’t want to live.

Once you cross the threshold into that mind shift…that mind shift where you really start to look at your life and what drinking is doing…there is no going back.  You know too much. When I was drinking, I questioned whether the other side existed.  Sure, I heard sober people talk of it, but I didn’t believe them.  I assumed they were living in their own fantasy world, or they spun stories to try to justify their choices  But now I believe.  During those 30 days I climbed and clawed until I was gripping the side of the mountain and could truly see what I had never witnessed before.  I saw the life that I had always been searching for – a life with meaning, beauty and purpose.  A life where I could truly FEEL the experience that life is.  A life that I looked so desperately for in the past, yet couldn’t find – so drowned my despair in alcohol.

I have not yet fully made it onto the other side, but I’m getting closer.  I had thought that learning to control my drinking might still allow me to get there, but I don’t think that’s possible.  Moderation is not on my path.  So today I’m dropping my backpack of liquor and I’m climbing that mountain with nothing in my arms or on my back.  It’s just me, my freedom, and my faith in the other side.  I’m not looking back.

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Today is What Matters

I don’t think about drinking nearly as much as I did four months ago, when I first started exploring my relationship with alcohol.  That first month it was pretty much all I thought about.  And often those thoughts – fueled by so much history and past victories – were successful in persuading me to pick up the glass of wine and say “F-it, I’ll start again tomorrow.”

By the second month I had learned how to ignore the constant chatter throughout the day. But I was still a slave to the deluge of voices in my ear that waited until the 4pm hour to bombard me.  It would start as a persistent hum deep within me.  I’d glance at the clock and realize what time it was and brace myself for the wave of longing that would soon wash over me.  Most days I was no match for it and before I knew it, I was cracking open the bottle and thinking “What’s one more day?  No one really cares that much anyway.”

And then one day, three months in, I looked at my phone and it read 4:45pm.  I usually leave my office at 4:30, and didn’t realize it was past quitting time.  What was interesting is that I didn’t immediately realize how significant it was to not count down the minutes between 4:00 and 4:30.  As I pulled into my driveway and thought about what I was going to do that night, it hit me.  I hadn’t even thought about whether I was going to drink that night.  I stilled, listening for the familiar buzzing.  There it was.  But it wasn’t familiar this time.  It was different somehow..instead of hundreds of voices pleading for me to quench their thirst, it was just a single voice,  whispering “I could use a drink, but I don’t necessarily have to have one.  I won’t be mad if you choose to not drink tonight.”  So I didn’t.

Four months in and I can honestly say I’ve silenced the 4pm noise.  Sure, I still think about drinking every now and then, but it isn’t constant and it certainly isn’t triggered by the time of day.  Now it might be triggered when someone I’m with has a beer, or when I see a wine tasting event advertised.  There are triggers, yes, but they are triggers that make sense.  They are triggers that the normal person sometimes gives in to.  Normal people don’t want to drink just because it’s 4pm.

I may never be normal (who wants to be normal anyway!) and I may never be able to drink like a normal person.  I don’t have the answers yet.  What matters is that I am making progress.  I am fighting and I am being brave and I am growing and I am trusting myself and I am walking on a path that was meant for me.

To me, in this moment, that is all that matters.

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Silence

I’ve been quiet lately.  Since my last post, I broke 21 days of not drinking.  I think that put me in a little bit of a funk.   I started this blog to hold myself accountable and document this process, but I found myself questioning it after my “relapse.”  The perfectionist in me says “How can you be such a hypocrite?  One minute you are writing about how wonderful your life is without alcohol and how much better you feel…and the next minute you are taking shots right out of the bottle!”

Am I just lying to all of you and to myself?  Do I have rose colored glasses on?

I know, deep down I’m not a hypocrite.  I know there are many people like me who have these same struggles.  But still.

So, that’s why I’ve been quiet.  I still don’t have a lot to say, and that’s ok.  After I picked myself up off the ground and got over feeling sorry for myself, I started back at Day 1.   Again.  And I wanted to cry, starting over again.  But I didn’t.  I gritted my teeth, pulled back my hair and stood at the bottom of that mountain and just started walking.  I’ll get there one day.  I know it.

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Nice to Meet You

One of the great joys I have experienced over the last few months is the process of discovering myself.  I’ve always felt that I didn’t have a true personality.  Whenever anyone asked me to describe myself, I would stutter.  Unless I was on a job interview, I couldn’t properly explain myself or tell my story.  It was easy to define myself as a potential employee – ambitious, motivated, takes initiative, a leader, etc.  One of the reasons it was easy is because alcohol didn’t play a part.   I never drank at work, thus I was able to evolve and grow in my career.

My personal life was a different story.  I hated meeting new people for fear they would ask me about myself and I’d have nothing to say.  Writing the “About Me” section on dating sites took me days.  I distinctly remember a journal entry I wrote around the age of 23 complaining about dating.  I was upset because I had just finished another miserable first date in which I knew the guy wasn’t interested in me.  My entry is despondent.  In it, I write that I have no hobbies, no interests and can’t even say what my favorite movie is.  I question how I will ever find someone if I have nothing to offer.  The last half of the entry is bitter – bitter that I even have to declare a favorite movie in order to portray myself.  Of course, that is an extreme statement…but the point is that I had an extremely fuzzy sense of myself in my early 20’s and I never gave myself the chance to develop it until recently.

I just finished reading the book “Drinking: A Love Story” by Caroline Knapp.  There’s a passage that I immediately connected with…

When you drink in order to transform yourself, when you drink and become someone you’re not, when you do this over and over and over, your relationship to the world becomes muddied and unclear.  You lose your bearings, the ground underneath you begins to feel shaky.  After a while you don’t know even the most basic things about yourself-what you’re afraid of, what feels good and bad, what you need in order to feel comforted and calm-because you’ve never given yourself a chance, a clear, sober chance to find out.”

Reading this took my breath away.  Everything started to make sense.  All that searching, that questioning, that feeling of not having a true identity – I now understood why I felt so lost.  I almost always relied on alcohol in social situations once I was 21.  Dates, college parties, weddings, hanging with friends, family events…alcohol was at every single one.  I had suffered from low self-esteem since I was a teenager, so I drank to be more social.  I drank to loosen up…and the more I did this, the more it became mandatory when I was in any social setting. Alcohol stunted my personal growth at a crucial time – right at the time in which I should have been discovering myself. Just as Knapp says above – I drank to transform myself.  I drank to be someone I was not.

How could I possibly describe someone who doesn’t exist?

Little by little, I’m learning about myself.  I’m currently at 15 days sober…the most I’ve been able to string together is 18.  But over the last 6 months I’ve probably only drank 15 days, so I’ve had more alcohol free days in this time period than ever before.  Some of the things I’ve realized: I love learning piano, I don’t like horror films, I want to make my own clothes, I hate watching baseball, I can write (and people actually think it’s good!), and that I can stand in a group of strangers and be comfortable in silence.  And there’s still so much more (see previous entry).

The best part?  I actually like who I am.

My name is Krista, and this is me.  Nice to meet you.

KHH

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The List

When my boyfriend Dan and I were in the early stages of dating he mentioned to me that he had written down a list of qualities he wanted in a woman.  My immediate reaction was negative mainly because I had worked off of my own mental list since I was in college and it didn’t serve me well.  My college boyfriend had everything on the list, but also had attributes that weren’t on the list (like jealousy and control issues) that ultimately led to our break-up.   My ex-husband didn’t even resemble my list…I convinced myself of that one by telling myself that lists can’t dictate who we fall in love with.  That one backfired on me too.  So by the time Dan and I met, my list was shredded, burnt, torn up into tiny pieces, etc.  I knew what my deal breakers and non-negotiables were – wanted kids, had a thirst for life, emotionally unafraid, financially stable – but other than that, I was open.

In comes Dan with his list and I admit, I felt threatened.  I didn’t want to be boxed into a list and I certainly didn’t want to feel as if I was somehow inadequate because I didn’t meet all of the criteria.  He assured me at the time that I met everything on it, other than the color of my hair.  So I read it and he was right – I did have all of the qualities he was looking for in a woman.  I breathed in a sigh of relief at the time – I was “OK”.

The introduction of the list was 6 months ago, during a time when I wasn’t quite sure where my relationship with alcohol was going to end up.  Since then, Dan and I have had several honest talks about my alcohol abuse and just recently I disclosed to him some things from my past (recent and not so recent) that I’m not proud of.  A few bring my honesty and credibility into question (such as hiding alcohol bottles or taking shots of liquor when no one is looking).  After our most recent conversation he admitted that he began thinking about his list and felt it might be worthwhile to read it over again.

It’s amazing what you learn about yourself when you really tune in to your body and how it reacts in situations.  When Dan said he was going to review his list, I could literally feel the adrenaline pulse through my veins.  Thoughts invaded my brain like ping pong balls:

What if he changes his list?

What if he finds something in me that isn’t on the list that he doesn’t like?

What if I’ve changed and the list no longer fits me?

What if he decides he doesn’t want me?

What if?

What if?

WHAT IF?

All of this took place in a matter of seconds.  Quickly, the adrenaline turned into a kind of angry defiance.

I’ll show him.  Just wait.  I’ll prove to him that not only do I meet everything on that list, but I AM that list.  I’ll eat that list for breakfast.  I will be Dan’s list AND every other man’s list that ever existed.

I will be.

I will be.

I WILL BE.

Again, all this happened within minutes.  The old me would have dwelled on both the fear and defensiveness I felt for a few days, and maybe even started to feel sorry for myself. Maybe I would have looked to Dan for validation and asked him to assure me that I still fit the list and I was still “ok.”

I am 10 days alcohol free right now, and although that’s not as many days as I was hoping for at this time, I still have done a ton of work on myself and can say that I am improving and growing stronger daily. After I calmed down from my crazy place, the only thought in my head was “I refuse to be someone else’s list unless it is my own.”

So I made a new list.  And this time, my list is not about the type of man I want. This time, the list is about WHO I AM and WHO I WANT TO BE.  

I AM:

  • A powerful, intimate, confident and free woman
  • Intelligent – both book smart and common sense smart
  • Financially savvy
  • Emotionally aware
  • Not afraid to change
  • Romantic and appreciative of small romantic gestures
  • Spiritually curious
  • Interested in traveling and exploring different cultures
  • Friendly, polite, and respectful of others
  • Ambitious and not afraid to set goals
  • Constantly looking for ways to grow (intellectually, emotionally, creatively)
  • Eager to have children
  • Sexy and I have a healthy sexual appetite
  • An animal lover
  • Goofy, witty and quick to humor
  • Trustworthy, honest and not afraid to be held accountable
  • A believer in that relationships are teams
  • Healthy and physically active
  • A deep thinker
  • A sore loser
  • A writer
  • One that challenges myself
  • a hundred other qualities that would take too long to write

My point is, I realize now that Dan’s list doesn’t matter to me.  I think it’s great that he knows what he wants and I sincerely hope that each time he looks it over, he determines that I am still the one that he wants…for he is the man that I am in love with.  But, if one day I don’t fit that list, so be it.  Never again will I re-define myself just to fit into someone else’s mold.  The only list that matters is my own.

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Leap

Taking risks.  We’ve all read quotes or have heard speeches about how important it is to take risks.  To not be afraid to fail.  To close your eyes, hold your breath and take that leap of faith.  You will never open your own business if you don’t quit your job.  You’ll never write that great novel if you don’t pick up the pen.  You can’t fly if you don’t jump. Life changes are built on these big risks.

What about the small risks though?  The teeny tiny risks that don’t warrant a Facebook post or a Pinterest quote?  The plain, not-so-glamorous risks that maybe aren’t as obvious to the average person?  We must not downplay these little acts of bravery…for they are the ones that truly lead to change.

change

Most of us think we have to take grand, public risks when considering being brave and having courage.  But risks like that are hard to find, and don’t come around very often. Those are “level 10” risks, and you know you’ve stumbled upon one when the thought of it makes you physically, painfully, wretchedly ill.  Many times these risks are life-changing in themselves. It’s easy to see the benefits reaped from these types of risks.

We don’t give the small risks enough credit though.  All of us can take small risks, daily. Risks that don’t require a lot of preparation.  Risks that happen at the spur of the moment.

Say hi to that attractive person you’ve been eyeing.  Hell – walk up to an attractive person you see on the street and tell them you think they are attractive.  Pay for the person behind you in the drive thru line.  Go to dinner with your friends and don’t drink, just for one night.  Order that dish you’ve been scared to try.  Put your name in the karaoke drawing.  Walk down a street you don’t normally walk down.  Tell a friend – one friend – that you are struggling..that you aren’t sure if you are headed down the right path. Dance sober. Run in the rain.  Tell a co-worker you appreciate them.  Surprise your partner with a thoughtful card.  Ask your boss for feedback.  Order sparkling water instead of that last glass of wine. Eat at a restaurant alone.

Take these risks and then celebrate them.  Often we don’t recognize these smaller risks since they seem insignificant but that’s where the magic happens.  When we take these smaller risks they add up.  They accumulate into something that is bigger than ourselves. They build on to each other until before we know it, we have built an armor within ourselves that is stronger than we have ever thought possible. These small risks – one by one- give us the confidence and the strength to know that we can do anything. That we are powerful and courageous and evolving.  

Every time that I take a risk now I picture myself fiercely hugging that little blonde girl that lives inside me and whispering in her ear – “you didn’t have to do that…but you did. And I am so proud of you.”

Love yourself enough to take a risk today. ❤

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