17 Months

Mornings are my jam.

As soon as my eyelids flicker open, my mind is off and running.  I'm calculating what needs to get done before 7 a.m., before 9 a.m., before noon, etc.  I work out a rough plan as I'm putting the hot water kettle on and pouring myself a cup of tea.  I've been doing this almost every single morning since I stopped drinking.

Today is my 17th month milestone of continuous sobriety.  I want to share everything, but I also have nothing to say.  Does that make any sense?  I mean, I've recently written about my 500 Days of sobriety milestone and how I almost drank a glass of white burgundy in Paris here.  But I'm kind of sick of hearing myself talk about drinking (or not drinking, as it were).  

But, this post is supposed to be a reflection.  A reminder of what I'm doing that's working.  It will hopefully help someone else who is still struggling, so here goes.

Through my recent travels to France, I very clearly realized that I have a problem with anxiety.  And while I don't know what exactly that means from a clinical standpoint, I do know and acknowledge that anxiety is preventing me from living a more full and happy life.  

Anxiety Girl onboard just before take off to France.  I'm texting with a few sober friends.  They are my lifesavers.

Anxiety Girl onboard just before take off to France.  I'm texting with a few sober friends.  They are my lifesavers.

As I've taken a closer look into the how and why I do the things I do, I kept seeing a pattern of avoidance, isolation, fear and incrimination of myself in social and practical situations.  For example, I miss opportunities to connect with friends because of my fear of traffic during rush hour or inclement weather.  Parking garages, indoor malls, concert venues, county fairs, amusement parks and children's birthday parties, to name a few, freak me out.  I have feelings of impending doom when I have to travel anywhere outside of my comfort zone and wake up hours beforehand to obsess and then make every preparation I possibly can to ensure ease and/or comfort, if I end up having to go.  I've learned I absolutely hate small talk in social settings and prefer being home over being anywhere else in the world.

I sound like a real kill-joy, right?  But wait, there's more...

I'm also figuring out that I want control and order in most situations.  I want it my way.  If I can't have it my way, I get anxious and feel physically agitated.  My left arm goes numb and my throat and upper chest tighten.  I feel panic slowly set in and I become ultra-sensitive or feel like I'm on the verge of tears.  It's not rational, but it's how it is.  I'm figuring out that alcohol was one of the tools I used to help quell these anxieties over the past dozen years or so.

When I was nervous or hosting people (people whom I invited and really liked) in my home, I would pre-drink in order to stuff down that nervousness.  I would also obsess about the drink station in my home and would over-serve anyone and everyone that walked through my door.  If they were drinking, that meant I could be drinking, too, right? 

This is as close as Anxiety Girl could get to the Louvre in Paris.  Too many people.

This is as close as Anxiety Girl could get to the Louvre in Paris.  Too many people.

When I owned my wine bar, I had every excuse to drink.  The fact that random people walked through the door of my business and I had to be social, make small talk and serve them wine made me extremely anxious. I did this for seven years.  Not all of it was bad, but towards the end, it was like my skin was on fire every time the front door opened and someone walked in.  My solution:  Pour myself a glass of wine and fake it.

I think the faking it is what slowly eroded my character over these years.  It's what set the ball in motion for the bulk of my drinking.  

I struggled with new motherhood, so I faked it.

I struggled to maintain a healthy, strong marriage, so I faked it.

I struggled with my relationships with friends and family, so I faked it.

I struggled with being nice to strangers, so I faked it.  

I struggled to acknowledge any of these problems (and plenty more) and continued to feel like a fake knowing how uncomfortable I was, so I drank.  A lot.

The phrase fake it until you make it may work for some, but I abhor that saying in my own life.  I think being fake is what fueled my drinking.  It's like I woke up everyday and couldn't be myself.  And, hell, I don't even know if I know who I really am, but I know for damned sure I would never find out if I kept drinking.  I hated myself when I was drinking.  I was full of self-loathing, self-pity, arrogance, ego.  I was such a know-it-all and not a very nice person.  Oh, I'd pretend to be one on the outside, but inside I would judge the heck out of you or the situation.  And I don't say this to boast or sound like a badass, I say all of this to come clean, to be honest, to finally tell the truth.  I hated the old me.

Because one of the biggest things I've learned over these past 17 months is that if I'm not rigorously honest in my life, I will slowly chip away at my own self-worth and I just can't do that anymore.  It's too costly.

I've been calling myself Anxiety Girl to a few of my closest sober friends and that actually helps relieve some of the anxiety.  I've found that humor is key in my recovery.  I've recently decided to go to one-on-one therapy to address my anxiety.  I've been using Bach's Rescue Remedy products when I feel the physical effects of anxiety creep up on me.

I've also been using essential oils.  I put a few drops of a citrus blend called JOY on my palms, cup my hands to my nose and inhale deeply a few times.  I've stopped drinking caffeinated coffee in the morning and switched to tea or decaf.  That's been a huge change in my mood and my anxiety levels.

For someone who thought she didn't have much to write about today, I sure did blather on here.

My home is on the hillside behind me - to the left of my peace sign.

My home is on the hillside behind me - to the left of my peace sign.

Addressing my anxiety feels like I'm finally jumping into the driver's seat of my life.  And for this recovering control freak, the road ahead looks wide open, promising and free.  It's sure to be a satisfying ride.