16 Months

The month of May was all about growth and adaptation for me.  Conquering fears and trying things on for size was my jam.  In this post, I'll touch on anxiety, my sobriety toolbox, my marriage and a big closure that involves real estate.  It's a lot to cover, but it's where I'm at and want to share it all as an update to where I am in terms of my recovery.  Grab a cup of coffee or tea and join me?

Anxiety + Self-Care
The amount of anxiety I feel on any given day is a direct reflection of how much self-care I have NOT done for myself.  If my anxiety is high, I most likely have not exercised, made time to read, made any art or treated myself to a yummy cup of hot tea.  If it's low, I guarantee it's because I've made time for some type of self-care routine.

As I approached this 16th month of continuous sobriety, I recognize yet another shift within myself and how I handle my anxiety while sober.  This past month was loaded with obligations, social commitments and preparing for final exams.  My anxiety reached record highs this month and, on my good days, I identified it early and did something about it.  Having that kind of control felt good and it ricocheted throughout the day.  I felt powerful in those moments of identifying the thing causing my anxiety and then even more powerful when I had some kind of tool to address it - like taking a scalding hot shower, texting with a sober friend, making myself a cup of tea or grabbing my journal and making marks in it.

My new friend, Natalie, helps me navigate shopping, traffic, parking lots + larger than life social situations

My new friend, Natalie, helps me navigate shopping, traffic, parking lots + larger than life social situations

My Sobriety Toolbox
I've been fairly social this month and that has been an intentional act at this stage in my recovery.  I've been isolating myself for well over a year and this month was the first time since I quit drinking that I felt really ready to get out and socialize.  I ended up meeting several friends (old + new) for coffee + shopping; lectures at the college, book club, a bat mitzvah and a creative workshop with 20 other women I had never met before.  In each of these situations, I made sure I had my sobriety toolbox with me.  That toolbox is ever-changing, but usually has something in it that can change my mood or bring me some kind of calm during my internal freak outs, if and when they occur.  

My Sobriety Toolbox :: pens, phone, 1 year sobriety chip, crystal, lip balm, essential oils, tea bags, mantra card + notebook

My Sobriety Toolbox :: pens, phone, 1 year sobriety chip, crystal, lip balm, essential oils, tea bags, mantra card + notebook

I cannot express to you how much texting with sober friends has helped to quell my anxiety when it flares up.  I got a new phone earlier this month and said goodbye to my (vintage) iPhone4.  My newfangled phone has a great camera, a large screen and emojis.  Yes, I was emoji-deficient with my old phone and I feel oh-so modern with this rose-gold beauty!  Being able to reach out and connect with other friends who are also sober has been a game-changer.  It's a tiny act of service, being there for one another, that ends up helping both parties and I'm grateful for it.

My Marriage
This past month I reached a turning point around the story I've been telling myself and others about how I got sober.  It's true I went to the doctor for my annual physical on February 3, 2015 and that was my actual Day 1 without alcohol, but the real truth of the matter is that the seed for quitting drinking was planted weeks before that appointment.

It wasn't until I scheduled this year's annual exam at Kaiser that memories of what preceded last year's physical came flooding back to me.  I have been so focused on my Day 1 that I pushed aside the painful memories of what brought me into her office in the first place and what made me tell the truth on that intake form when they asked how many alcoholic drinks I drank in a week.  21 drinks per week is what I wrote down when asked about my weekly drinking, but the real number was 42.  I've been so careful to protect my husband when I write or tell my story, but he's a major part of why I'm sober today.

In mid-January of last year (2015), after seven years of marriage counseling, we finally decided to tell our counselor we needed more help and that we needed to be more honest with her about the struggles we were facing in our marriage.  We were super uncomfortable to do this, but we realized long ago that we were only telling her part of the truth about our marriage.  We've been so co-dependent and when we're in her office, we realized we were protecting each other and trying not to embarrass the other person too much.  We were holding back on issues surrounding my drinking and intimacy hurdles.  And guess what?  Trying to tackle those issues on our own wasn't really helping us out.  At her prompting, we went home and spent a few evenings doling out the complete, unedited versions of our truths to each other.  It was painful, ugly and raw.  I know those nights put us on the path towards saving our marriage.

My husband is a private person, so I'm not going to reveal too much here, but he did finally speak up and tell me exactly what I was like when I was in a blackout, or came home drunk from social events, or chose others over our family unit.  It was humiliating and mortifying to hear the things he said about my behavior(s).  I've never felt such shame.  It unhinged something in me and I felt like I had to do something drastic to show him that I was serious about changing my behavior.

It is not the pain and the wounds that are the worst. The worst is the humiliation.”
— Pascal Mercier, Swiss writer + philosopher

Immediately, I went online and took the Is AA for you? quiz on the AA website to see if I really was an alcoholic.  I lied while filling out the questionnaire and, of course, it told me what I wanted to hear - I was not an alcoholic.  

But when I was filling out that patient intake form in the Kaiser waiting room a few weeks later, I finally just wanted to tell the truth to someone.  I was so tired of running from myself, running from my the truth, running from my past.  I just wanted to be honest once and for all about my drinking.  My doctor seemed like the person who would hear me out and, hopefully, help me.  And she did.

I abstained from alcohol for seven months before I attended my first AA meeting last September.  I can see clearly now that when I quit drinking alcohol, that was my Hail Mary pass in order to save my marriage and that it's taken these past 16 months to even see that that's what I was doing by giving up alcohol.  

I've been throwing the book at this sobriety thing ever since that fateful day 16 months ago - I've trained and hiked mountains, I've attended AA meetings, I've attended Hip Sobriety School, I'm working the Steps, I have a Sponsor, I'm engaged with a tribe of amazing sober women.  I have a sobriety toolbox I use on a daily basis, I'm admitting and identifying how much anxiety plays a role in my life.  I have a therapist.  I've gone back to college to up my self-worth and give my life purpose.  I've written about my struggles and been published here.  I'm rigorously honest now.  I'm of service to others.  

Last year's anniversary card

Last year's anniversary card

Everything in my life is a work in progress and accepting that has been the key to finding my peace surrounding my alcoholism.  Getting to the root of why I quit drinking felt like a light bulb moment for me and now that I know what caused it, I can't un-know it.  Does that make sense?  In going back, it propels me forward with my recovery.  Identifying my bottom helped me climb up and out of it.  It honored my husband in this equation, too.  He's seen so much of the dark side and he's only now starting to believe that my sobriety is a serious venture.  It's okay.  I have a lot to prove - to him, to myself, to my friends and family.  

Luckily, I'm up for the task.

Miscellaneous routines + habits
I'm continuing to create daily gratitude lists and this practice really anchors my day.  I'm in a gratitude email circle with six other sober women and it's so lovely to receive these beautiful lists throughout the day in my inbox and read what others are grateful for in their lives.  It truly informs me and helps to widen my scope of what I have to be grateful for in my life.  It's become a daily ritual that I honor and, therefore, honor myself in the doing of it.

Currently, I'm on Step 7 and writing about one of my character defects this month - Judgment.  Perfect timing.  More on that in another blog post.  I'm going to chronicle how I'm working the steps in AA.  Would that interest anyone?  Leave a comment if you have any thoughts on it or what you'd like to read about.

In looking back at this month, I've made a lot of different choices in my day-to-day life.  I've listened to my inner voice a lot more, which feels like my higher power, my higher self.  For the most part, I felt like I had a leg up on things and operated from a place of knowing, instead of scrambling, if that makes sense.  The obsession with alcohol has been lifted for me and that feels like the ultimate gift.  I've sat at bars this month sipping on fizzy water with lemon.  I've taken my own beverages to events and learned that I need to park where I can easily leave a stressful social situation.  I've declined invitations wherein I know they would not bring me any peace or calm and did so even at the risk of disappointing others.  I've learned that it's okay to choose me and my sanity over making others feel better.  And all of these tiny acts this month have accumulated into a newfound strength for me.  I'm no longer wallowing in a place of deficit but, rather, in a place of abundance.  I have so many tools to pull from now to help in my recovery.  Attending AA meetings is the quickest fix to my agitated state of being when I'm in a place of unrest.

As you finish reading this post (it's so long, have you taken a short nap to get through it?), I will have just landed in Paris, France with my two fellas and that is the best 16th month sobriety gift EVER, right?  There was a lot of preparation for this trip and it feels timely.  School has just ended for me and my son, my husband's colleague has just returned from a month-long trip abroad and now it's my husband's turn to have a real vacation from work and real life obligations.  

Real Estate
We've been in escrow for months and months on the building we own that houses the wine bar we once owned.  We sold the wine bar business eight years ago, but the final sale of the building will feel like a thousand pound weight being lifted off of my shoulders.  That space is where I kickstarted the bulk of my alcoholic drinking.  The symbolism of shedding this two-story building (where we once lived and worked) feels like the final punctuation mark that I've been needing to end this 15 year long story of mine.

When escrow closes later today on our Bodega Bay real estate, I will feel like a proverbial window will finally be closed on this chapter of my life.  It's bittersweet, but necessary to think about it this way.  I'll still be able to see through the glass panes and learn from the past when warranted, but I'm looking forward to installing some beautifully patterned Marimekko curtains and pulling them closed when I need to focus on the new views from inside the room that I'm now soberly standing in.