Shitty Moods on Sunshiny Days

Well I’M in a shitty mood today. I’m writing now as a way of hopefully talking myself down from this bad vibe.

For starters, it’s a Monday and it’s Day 3 post-vacation. In part, it’s a classic case of post holiday blues. Miraculously, I survived this vacation without drinking but more about that later. Every winter we visit close friends at their mountainside ski in/ski out cabin. We are avid skiers so this is Heaven. It’s a full day of travel each way. I have chronic fatigue which I have learned to manage over the years and fortunately have not been completely, physically debilitated as have many. Post-exertional malaise is part of it which means I have to be careful I don’t overdo it with activity or I become exhausted. So on top of a huge travel day to a different time zone, as well as a seasonal time change, I then completely overdid it on the slopes. It landed me on the couch for 2 days but I rallied for one last ski day. Then another full travel day and here I am, 3 days later, on the couch, still recovering. Was it worth it? Yes!

When I’m exhausted, I’m vulnerable to drinking. Wine always perked me up when I suffered a flare-up of chronic fatigue. It helped me escape the physical discomfort for a while (but only a short while as we all know.) I knew people would be drinking wine on this trip and I was a bit worried about it. I didn’t have any wild cravings like on my last holiday, but I did have a few flashes of “sure!why not?!maybe I’ll have some. Maybe I will start drinking again!” Probably because my hosts kept saying “you’ve got to try this one – it’s special. Just have a glass.” And you know those people who make annoying mmmmm…nnyumnnyum, sounds over food? Well these people were making annoying mmmmm…nnyumnnyum, sounds over the wine. It fucking pissed me off. They knew I was trying not to drink and yet they persisted. And they were all “normies.” That fucking pissed me off even more.

Finally I bought some non-alcoholic wine which helped me tremendously – the bottles look legit and the wine when poured looks legit. It looked exactly like what all the fucking normies were drinking and thus my booze brain was silenced. Hooray PG for not giving in to wine on this trip 🏆🥇🏅🎖What treasure might I reward myself with today in recognition of this great accomplishment? Maybe a new couch…

When my fatigue sidelines me, it is absolutely necessary to hit the rest button, but when I’m sidelined my good mood is too. So my days spent on the couch instead of skiing made me angry, depressed, and resentful. Once back on skis, my usual peaceful, good mood was instantly restored. It’s a matter of finding the right balance. Can I also just say, for others out there with invisible illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome, I feel for you – we are treated like complainers and hypochondriacs. No wonder some of us have turned to self-medication with booze.

It is now noon and I’m still in my pajamas but I have successfully talked myself down from a miserable mood. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining and I feel well enough to get outside for a walk. And well enough to try on a few new couches.

PG

xo

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BEWARE Hotel Room “Welcome”Amenities

What’s with the trend for upscale hotel rooms to have snack baskets brimming with wine bottles??? Twice in 2017, when I was doing my best to stay alcohol-free, I ended up checking into hotel rooms with wine bottles lounging seductively amongst the chocolate bars and cocktail nut packages. I thought mini bars had long outlived their “best before” date and now this.

The first time, in May 2017, I was blindsided when, upon checking into our room, I discovered the wine tucked behind sleek, contemporary cupboard doors masquerading as walls. That discovery came even before I did my usual hotel room preliminary safety check of under-the-bed and behind-the-curtains. Clearly, when it comes to alcohol, I am the truffle pig of the wine world. Did I drink the wine? No, I did not drink the wine. I waited until I got back home and then I drank the wine because:

Vacation Mode + Wine Handy = Trigger of the Highest Order for PG.

The second time was last October, 4 months into being alcohol-free, and while on vacation. Our final hotel room for the last few days and we walk in and B-BAAMMM 💥….. fucking vino blanco and fucking vino russo tauntingly perched beside the Nespresso machine, embellishing themselves with Ritz crackers and stupid fucking chocolate covered cranberries. Hard to hide behind tiny over-priced snacks isn’t it when you are each 750 ml giants?! Did I drink the wine? No, I did not drink the wine. But I did turn into a raging bitch with the wine witch screeching at me until near the end of the trip when I ordered cider one day and wine the next. Because: Vacation Mode + Wine Handy = Trigger of the Highest Order for PG.

Moral of the story…. from now on when I book into hotel rooms it’s going to be the 3 Star Holiday Inn Express all the way. No more fancy schmancy for me. Who needs the extra 2 stars anyway? I can get bedbugs just as easily at a 5 Star but, apart from cost, the difference really just comes down to which bedbugs come with the nicer body lotion. Right??! And, if I do end up with uninvited former lovers (ie. Blanco&Russo) waiting for me in my hotel room, I will call house-keeping (or pest control) to come and remove them immediately.

Cautionary tale my friends! Stay safe and alcohol-free while on vacation!!!

xo

PG

(The photo is not actually mine… I should have taken photos as evidence!)

Reflections, not pretty

Last week, I went next door to invite my elderly neighbour, Benoit, for dinner. His wife was out of town for a couple of weeks. As I walked past his car in the driveway, I noticed the trunk hatch was open exposing 2 recycling bins brimming with empty wine bottles. When I knocked on his door, he answered with more empty wine bottles cradled in his arms. His wife would be returning in 2 days. He was disposing of the evidence.

Another day last week, my husband was chatting with Benoit in his driveway when they were approached by a woman. She was an acquaintance of Benoit’s. When Benoit inquired as to her well-being, she replied “I’m not very well. My daughter just died at age 55.”

“Oh no!” said Benoit. “I’m so sorry to hear that. Was it cancer?”

“No.” she said. “Alcoholism.” Her daughter, age 55, had spent her last days living in a nursing home… a NURSING HOME at age 55!

I see myself reflected back in the faces of those all around me. I am Benoit. I am his acquaintance’s daughter. By the grace of God, I am here and I am sober.

PG

Day 62

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

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 👻🎃