My Daily Pledge

Today I Will Stay Sober from Alcohol

Because

I CAN’T DRINK MODERATELY

ALCOHOL MAKES ME FEEL UNHAPPY

ALCOHOL MAKES ME FEEL ANXIOUS


My “I Am Sober” app added a daily pledge option recently. I have it set to remind myself daily each morning at 7:30. The app allows you to create your own unique pledge and when I wrote mine, the words above are the first ones to assert themselves. Every morning now, for the past 40, I have read my pledge with focused attention. The words, honed down into simplicity, are impactful for me and succinctly define my complex relationship with alcohol. Of all the awful things alcohol has brought to my life, the worst of them have been the utter, bleak, soul-crushers of unhappiness and anxiety. My daily pledge is now a potent reminder.

At the end of December 2017, I experienced a shift in my attitude towards alcohol. I finally, deeply accepted that I could live my life happily, completely without alcohol. Up until that shift occurred, I still entertained ideas about allowing myself to drink sometimes. I knew I wanted to stop but I still felt deprived imagining my life without wine. There was a particular brand of wine that kept rudely barging into my thoughts like a bad ex-boyfriend. So I was seduced by that bad boy ex-wine whispering into my ear….seduced into buying and drinking a bottle and a half on December 28th. And I hated it! I hated the taste. I hated the guilt as I drank it alone. I hated the threat of ruination it brought again. I hated that my family probably noticed me slurring my words, making stupid comments, and getting angry over nothing. I hated the super ugly hangover selfie I took the next day, and of course the actual hangover as well. I HATED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve said this all before but quitting drinking is really hard. For me it has been a process. A critical part of my process was getting through 100 days alcohol free last summer. That was the really brutal but necessary hard work required to restore my completely fucked up brain chemistry. Those first few weeks were done hour by hour, then day by day until it gradually started to get easier. However, I still did not have the deep inner conviction that I could thrive without wine. Which is why I started to drink again occasionally last fall.

The right Attitude is another critical component to long-term sobriety. I can say this with conviction because for those of you who don’t know, I was sober for almost 11 years until a major relapse at the end of 2015. I also believe “white-knuckling”is a key component of the process – we all need to start somewhere and for many of us it involves white-knuckling through the early days. The right attitude comes later….often after many lapses and relapses for some of us. You can’t just tell yourself it’s time to live happily ever after without alcohol and then just do it. At least I couldn’t, until I finally embraced that thought 100% with mind, body, and soul and it has taken me 2 years to cultivate that attitude again. It’s the attitude that got me through those 10 years & 8 months of sober, deeply happy years.

I now have inner- peace, motivation, and a newfound zest for my own life. I’m showing up as a participant in my own life now instead of watching it go by through the bottom of a wine glass. I’ve stopped saying “I might have a drink” or “what if I have a drink” or “maybe I’ll have a drink.” Any thoughts of drinking are immediately stamped with a boldfaced NO! And a glance at my pledge. But there haven’t been many of those to contend with so far in 2018.

The repetition of my new daily pledge each morning, or anytime throughout the day, has become a potent ritual with the power to annihilate random, romantic thoughts about ever drinking wine again. But it really only works for me because it’s plugged in to the right attitude.

💟 ☮️ Poison Grigio

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Start Clean Stay Clean in 2018

Start Clean Stay Clean in 2018 is the mantra that popped into my head last week. Really it was generated by Anne of Ainsobriety’s thought provoking word-of-the-year post so many thanks to Anne! My mantra can be edited down to one word choice for 2018 which would be the word CLEAN….or even Twenty-Eight Clean…However, another more potent word and symbol has also been duking it out for my top word choice and that word is:

And the winner is…. the “NO” symbol, overlaying the word “IF”! “IF” Implies Failure and it is the loophole that gives us permission to have that first drink. I used “IF” throughout 2017, as in “what if I accidentally have a drink.” Quitting can be such a mind-game and I just could not close that “IF” loophole… until I could see the end of 2017 and the beginning of a shiny, Clean 2018 straight ahead.

Reflecting on my 2017, I spent the entire year actively working on sobriety especially with the help of all of you in the online sober community. Having kept track of my alcohol free days, I spent 60% of 2017 not drinking. The hardest work I did in 2017 was last summer when I literally went through hell to reach my goal of 100 alcohol-free days. My wine drinking up until mid-June was dangerously excessive and daily. Then I relapsed in mid-October but I have not completely given in and I have not succumbed to daily excessive drinking again. I have, however, done some excessive wine drinking a few times but made the decision to completely abstain before the end of December 2017.

So I have sailed into 2018 feeling Clean and committed to sobriety! My new goal is 365 DAYS AND BEYOND. I could not move forward until my mind was able to close that loophole of permission to have a drink. “IF” also stands for “I FAIL”

My word for 2018 is IF with the NO symbol squashing the life out of it. My apologies for the rudimentary artwork lol.

Love, thanks, and best wishes to all of you for a Clean and sober 2018! No IFs about it!

Xo

PG

Progress not Perfection

I have been posting daily but not publishing. I have been reading all of your blogs daily but not participating. I continue to value all that this sober/trying-to-be sober community has to offer.

I officially reset my sober counter on Monday, December 4, 2017. I had exactly one week, Sunday to Sunday, where I drank a whole bottle of wine on 4 occasions.  Within that week there was 1 day of moderate consumption,  plus 2 AF days. The relapse officially began on Oct 20 at the end of a holiday where I got blindsided by the urge to drink after 4 months sober. It was overwhelming to be in restaurants watching others consume alcohol. I became cranky, irritable, and felt deprived and hard done by. I felt cursed by my family legacy of alcoholism. I gave in. But until this most recent “Sunday to Sunday” week, I kept it very moderate and did not drink daily. I knew in my heart that moderation would not work. However, I also knew that beating myself up with guilt and a judgement of moral failing would only exacerbate and accelerate my descent into drinking again.

What tipped me over recently, was the stress of coping with a parent with Alzheimer’s. There was a crisis and once the crisis was over, I wanted the numbing effects of alcohol. I was then faced with the imminent danger of this quickly becoming daily heavy consumption again.  The 4 months abstinence restored my brain chemistry and my sense of inner peace though – I still have it!! I know I never want to descend into the hell of drinking again; that horrendous anxiety; that intense lack of motivation for anything other than alcohol; that ugly face looking back at me in the mirror; that lethargy; that terrible quality of sleep; that stale alcohol breath the next day; that guilt; that shame…. the list goes on….

Some wise soul said “aim for progress, not perfection.” I have logged almost every one of my alcohol free days since January 1, 2017 and I have had 202 AF days. This is progress! But I can also see the end of a very challenging 2017 fast approaching and the start of what can be a brand new shiny, sober year. I want to shed the shackles of alcohol – beginning 2 days ago actually. It will feel fantastic to end 2017 sober and begin a brand new year 2018 sober! Then, I can aim for Perfection!

I just discovered The Faster Scale App (fasterscaleapp.com) which is a relapse prevention tool whereby ” a person can train themselves to notice warning signs before relapse occurs and take evasive action.” You check in each day to see how your mental state changes over time and it calculates a “danger score” to indicate how close to relapse you are.  Already it has helped me realize the deep resentments I carry within. “Resentment” according to the AA Big Book, ” is the number one offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else; from it stem all forms of spiritual disease.”

I’m also binging on a schmorgasboard of health podcasts and meditations. I’m keeping a daily “Dopamine List” which is essentially a daily ToDo list. Each time I check off an item on my list, I get a boost of dopamine. I have many items on the list and many getting checked off which is an indication that my brain chemistry has not been fucked…yet….after this past Relapse. In the early days after quitting alcohol last summer, I struggled to even have a list – some days there was only one thing on the list.

Progress first. Then, Perfection!

xo

PG

Never Say FuckIt

This post was written on October 31st but I wanted to let it breathe, and let myself breathe, for a few days before making a decision about whether or not to share it.

I have historically suffered from the “FuckIt Effect” which means that a lapse in sobriety for me becomes an automatic relapse. This is also called the “Abstinence-Violation Effect,” a term used by Alan Marlatt, past Director of Addictive Behaviours Research Center at the University of Washington. He stated that “people with a strong abstinence-violation effect relapse much more quickly.  A single slip solidifies their sense that they are a failure and cannot quit, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.” He says “it’s a black or white form of thinking…the idea that once you’ve blown it, you might as well binge.” This is me.

I recently had a few lapses on our holiday which was supposed to be alcohol-free. The hubby and I shared a bottle of wine on 3 occasions. It’s like I got off the airplane in holiday land and whammo…. the desire for alcohol swarmed me as ferociously as cruise-ship tourists swarm port towns when they dock. I had been coping fine at home being around drinkers but plop me into a restaurant a few thousand kilometres away and the obsessive cravings were fierce. I’m sure it was a combination of PAWS, romancing the booze, and situational. I was obsessed with thoughts of drinking and in restaurants I was keeping track of how many and what kind of drinks people at neighbouring tables were consuming. At some point, we decided to order wine. We didn’t drink too much. I didn’t want to continue drinking after the shared bottle.

However, I’m not kidding myself about this – I can NOT be a moderate drinker.  My goal continues to be long-term abstinence from alcohol. Psychologically I feel inner peace now. I have motivation again and look forward to things. I never again want to experience the hellish existence that alcohol has caused in my life. But on vacation, I gave myself permission and now and Me have a trust issue between us. 

This is where the FuckIt Effect comes in.  I have really struggled with the lapses threatening to become relapse. BUT… I have chosen to put those lapses behind me instead of giving into full-blown relapse. This is a big step along the way for me – to not hate and condemn myself for those lapses and thus not dive headfirst into the liquor store and back into the trap of daily, miserable drinking. When our sober app says “throw kindness around like confetti,” it presumes we start by throwing it on ourselves. 

Some of our fellow bloggers have so bravely confessed to lapses and relapses recently. One that I have followed has deleted her blog so it makes me wonder if she has relapsed.  I was stressed about whether or not to confess, to lie, or even to delete my blog. But those who have shared their stories of lapses and relapses have only helped me on this cursed path that I stumble along, sometimes not so smoothly.  I have great compassion for those who relapse and confess but also great compassion for those who relapse and delete their blogs. As supportive as this online community is, it is still social media at the end of the day and it can become an overwhelming pressure for some of us sometimes.  

This whole scenario I am in has a sinister feeling lurking within. That’s because of the “what ifs” that come along with giving myself permission to have that drink. I don’t want to have the mindset that lapses are okay for me once in a while because “what if” next time I allow myself to drink, I am involved in any number of potentially dangerous situations?!! (Hellooo Poison Grigio….cracked your skull lately?!) How do I walk this fine line between not giving myself that permission and not beating myself up into oblivion if I do? 

ONE.DAY.AT.A.TIME.

love to all of you xo

.BOO 👻🎃

Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti 🎉 

4 Months

I’m so glad I hunkered down and quit 4 months ago. I really do believe that the many months’ long turmoil of constant drinking&quitting, drinking&quitting, drinking&quitting, that I was stuck in was a necessary part of the process. If you are stuck in that cycle, don’t despair because I think the act of trying to quit, or even contemplating quitting, is exercising your brain, soul, and psyche in a positive direction. Denial is the brick wall that keeps many chained to the misery of addiction. If you are in denial you aren’t trying to quit or you aren’t thinking about quitting because it hasn’t crossed your mind or if it has, has been completely refuted. If you are in denial, it’s doubtful you are here reading sober blogs. Just cracking through the tough veneer of denial is HUGE!!! It’s the very beginning…

As I was writing, my sober app piped up with a happy little tune and a message to ” Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti 🎉 !” It jumped onto the title for today despite being irrelevant to the content of my post. But then again, Kindness is never irrelevant.  (Hopefully I won’t get arrested today throwing myself happily into the paths of others, sprinkling kindness around, like a jack-in-the-box.)

The Mr. and I are embarking on a vacay today for a couple of weeks and I will be away from my precious sobersphere and all of you precious souls. I’ve done many AF vacations in the past but the Mr. has not so this will be our first trip together, in our 30 year history, completely alcohol free! 

See you in 2 weeks 😘🎉 

xoxo

Day 100 (WHEW! is an understatement!)

Day 100

On Day 20, I speculated about how long the feelings of Meh and Blah might last. I was aiming for 100 alcohol free days to give my addicted brain a chance to heal. What a fantastic feeling it is to sit here today, 80 alcohol free days later, and look back on Day 20. On Day 20, It was really hard to look ahead to Day 100. I couldn’t imagine actually making it this far.  I haven’t had cravings for weeks now (except for one day last week) and those nasty feelings of Meh and Blah that first plagued me are long gone. It does get better!!!

One thing that helped me hugely was learning about PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome). I wrote about it earlier and learned about it elsewhere in this community. If you are in the early days and don’t know about it, it will be invaluable information.

So speaking of PAWS, a few days ago I was re-reading my journalcohol from last September.  It was a couple of days after my last post. And interestingly, reading about when, why, and how much wine I was consuming and how shitty I felt and looked, made me want to drink!!! It proves to me that thinking about a past event in our lives can actually cause our bodies to relive the physiological sensation from that very time! It’s actually a mindfulness thing I learned. But also, PAWS can apparently pop up unexpectedly at lunar intervals 30, 60, 90 days and one and two year soberversaries. 

I can read – no, actually devour – everybody else’s online journalcohols and it just gives me strength. But I can’t read my own from last year. So I’ll be staying clear of those!!! 

So beware of 2 things when doing your best to stay sober:

1.  PAWS

2.  Ruminating too much about drinking from your past. Combined with PAWS, it could be dangerous.

Happy Happy AF Days my friends 😘 xoxo

“If You Are Going Through Hell, Keep Going” – Winston Churchill

Day 95

After almost 11 years of sobriety, I relapsed on December 24, 2015. The drinking quickly ramped up until a few months into it when I realized I would have to quit again. MUCH Easier said than done and it would be another year and a half of starts and stops before I got enough traction to put together my current abstinence of 95 days.

 Here are a few excerpts from my journal last September, 2016:

September 12, 2016:  “Yesterday was the day. I felt like shit all day and very tired. I looked horrible. I looked and felt fat. I hope I haven’t fucked up my liver during my drinking spree of the past 8&1/2 months. Ha! Perfect gestation period! Time for me to give birth to Damian, the love child between me and Chardonnay.”

September 13, 2016:  “Probably the biggest epiphany an alcoholic can realize is that they can live without alcohol and be happy and be fulfilled. Because when I quit 10&1/2 years ago, it took a few attempts over the years to get it right and mainly I would say because I felt I absolutely could not live life without alcohol. ”

September 23, 2016:  “So…the Booze Brain won at 3:45 pm today. I just couldn’t fight it off today. ”

September 26, 2016:  “I even was thinking ‘I don’t care if I’m hungover tomorrow. I will cancel my mammogram.’  What is going on in my brain when this is happening? It isn’t worried about me and lets me go off  the rails because it isn’t worried about me and my safety. I mean, what can happen between the couch and the fridge?! Well lots could happen actually which is where the denial comes in: stroke, heart attack, choking, falling…”

September 28, 2016:  “Yesterday I cracked open a bottle of wine at 1:00 pm. I was feeling completely unmotivated yesterday so I binge watched Netflix all afternoon and sipped on wine. I don’t want that feeling of just wanting to kick back and drink wine all day. I did that 12 day alcohol-free stint and I felt great. I want that feeling back. I could have it tomorrow…”

This is the pattern of drinking and trying to quit that I continued until I had my “fainting” episode on June 11th of this year.  And let’s be honest my friends, it might not have been “just fainting” – it actually could have been a seizure, mini-stroke, or atrial fibrillation.  

If anyone out there is contemplating the idea of starting to drink again, please don’t do it. I have written previously about why I relapsed after many years of sobriety. But even with those explanations, underlying all of that, throughout my sobriety, there existed what I call The Marooned on a Tropical Island Fantasy. AKA The I’ll Just Drink Wine Again if I Go to Italy Fantasy.  Because those fantasies still lurked unchecked within my subconscious during those sober years, I was bound to relapse. Deep down I still thought that I could drink again in the future and be a moderate drinker. I for sure know now that I can NEVER EVER be a moderate drinker. I’ve re-written my fantasies so If I am ever marooned on a tropical island I have subbed in gorgeous actor Ian Somerhalder instead of wine. And I will also forgo the trip to Italy completely and instead I will vacation on the marooned tropical island with Ian Somerhalder. 

I recently heard the quote from Winston Churchill ” If you’re going through hell, keep going” and I love it because it perfectly describes for me the early days of sobriety. It really is hell when you first quit drinking but I’ve learned, once again, that you have to just go through it to get to the other wonderful side. And sitting here at Day 95, I feel pretty wonderful 😌

xo 

PG