alcohol · Holidays

This Amazing Gift

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On Monday I returned from my first sober vacation…still sober.

There were a few instances in which I felt a little anxious about not drinking but with a few deep breaths and thinking about what awful things would probably happened if I picked up a drink, I was able to calm myself and even have fun.

Friday was spent traveling to the beach and then having lunch once we got there. I was probably the only one there who noticed that no one ordered alcohol with their meal. We grabbed a few groceries, dropped our belongings off at the beach house and then headed to the sand. We had a late dinner Friday evening followed by a short trip to a bar where the bartender kindly gave me my non-alcoholic beverage for free. He had a look in his eye that he understood and for that I was grateful.  My friends and I spent most of the evening laughing harder than we have in a long time. And I was sober.

Saturday morning three of us woke early and walked to a nearby Dunkin Donuts for coffee and conversation. What a blessing to wake up refreshed and with a clear head to be able to do that. Then I made breakfast for everyone and the majority of the day was spent at the beach. We went to a well known restaurant for dinner and then a night club.  I WAS SOBER IN A NIGHT CLUB.  This is unheard of for me. The unbelievable (for me) thing was, I was stone cold sober and yet I laughed and danced and sang along with the music and enjoyed every second.

Sunday morning I made breakfast again for the group and then we spent part of the day at the beach. I was burnt by this point and decided to go back to the house alone.  On my walk back, I stopped at the Dunkin Donuts and treated myself to an iced coffee. I read a book this day and we went to dinner again and then took a short trip to the boardwalk.  By evening, I was ready to head home the next day as I really missed my babies.

My amazing sober buddy checked in with me daily while I was away. I took deep breaths. I stayed in the present. I intentionally looked for the blessings that my sobriety brought:  early mornings with NO hangovers, feeling present, being able to make breakfast for my friends, knowing that I and the people I love were safe because I was the DD, fully enjoying the sunshine without the haze of alcohol, no shame or guilt, and I remember everything. EVERYTHING.

There were so many moments on this trip that I wanted to fall to my knees and thank God and the Universe for this chance to change my life. I’m choking up now just thinking of this. Nearly 6 months ago when things fell apart for the final time while I was drinking, I didn’t think life could be like this. I was so miserable and lost. When I decided on December 18 that I just could not have another drink and survive, I thought I was walking from one miserable life right into another miserable life but in that moment, in my mind, anything would have been better than continuing to drink.  At that time, sobriety meant no fun, no friends, isolation, anger and sadness. I was so focused on what I was having to give up that I couldn’t see what I might gain.

It is by the grace of God that I pushed through all of that and kept going. And there are no words to describe how grateful I am that I’ve made it to this point. Now I can see that what I gave up was not fun and friends. I gave up being controlled by alcohol, I gave up shame and guilt, I gave up self-destructive choices, I gave up completely ruining my children’s childhoods, I gave up running from all of my problems. I gave up faking who I was and what I wanted from my life.

I gained the ability to feel everything, good and bad, an appreciation for the here and now, and the chance to strengthen and deepen relationships that truly matter. I gained an appreciation for how strong I truly am.  I gained a sense of self that I had no idea was available to me. I gained the knowledge of beginning to figure out who the authentic me is and what she wants from this life. Sobriety has brought me to a place of self-love that I never knew existed.

I read stories from others who are on their own recovery journey and before when I would read things like, “sobriety is such a gift,” I had no real understanding of what that meant. But now, today, I do. I get it, I really get it. Even on the bad days, sobriety is so much better than where I used to be.

So if you’re reading this and you’re not quite there yet, have faith that it can happen for you too. You are not alone. So many of us have been there but you are strong and you are worth it. You will not regret giving yourself this beautiful gift.

Life is so much sweeter, sober.

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Holidays · Mental Illness · Self-Care

My First Sober Vacation

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Guess who is going on her first sober vacation tomorrow? THIS GIRL!

Four other lovely ladies and myself will be heading to the beach a few hours away for a 3 day get away and I’m super excited. Let me be clear though – it wasn’t always this way.

When we first began to plan the trip a few months ago, I was very early into my recovery. The thought of going to the beach with some friends and NOT drinking gave me major anxiety. Apparently, the thought of going to the beach and my drinking gave some other people anxiety too.  Another friend decided not to join us thinking it would be a crazy, wild weekend courtesy of yours truly and she didn’t want any part of that because she had witnessed it enough times before to know that it was not fun. Truthfully, I don’t blame her. It’s embarrassing for me to know that my drinking is the reason she passed on a fun weekend away but I get it.  When I first learned of this (because she gave me a different excuse but then told others her real reason for staying back – me) I felt awful. I was humiliated and filled with shame, guilt and anxiety for around 2 weeks. I had to sit with that and own it. I’m not proud of who I was, but I know who I am now and I am incredibly proud of that woman.  Also, when we were planning this trip, not everyone knew that I had stopped drinking at that time and those who did didn’t think I was that serious about it. They were wrong.

As time has passed and I approach the 6 month sobriety mark, everyone who is attending the trip knows that I am sober and very serious about my recovery. Everyone is okay with that of course and frankly, I don’t think they really care as they all have their own problems and issues to worry about.  Funny how that works isn’t it?

Now I’ve gone from being anxious about not drinking to being anxious about being away from my kids for 3 and a half days because I’ve never been away from them for that long. And because I’m just an anxious person in general, so if I stop having anxiety about one thing, I just seem to find another to latch on to!

I know better than to get complacent though. That’s when, for me, I know a relapse could happen. I still remember how horrific it felt to wake up filled with shame and guilt and panic over not remembering what I said or did the night before.  The humiliation of having someone fill in the gaps for me, often angrily or disappointed. I remember how much I hated myself…how self-destructive I had become and how little I cared. I never, ever want to go back to that. So for today at least, I choose not to pick up a drink.

I also have been proactive in how I’m going to handle things on this vacation. I know the girls won’t pressure me to drink because they now understand how serious I am about my sobriety. I’ve already told them that if I feel anxious or don’t feel comfortable going somewhere with them, I’ll just stay back at the beach house.  I think it’s really important that I advocate for myself so I did. I’m bringing several books for the beach and for anytime I may stay at the house and need something to do. I plan on practicing yoga and meditating while away and I’ve made sure to pack my headphones so I can check in with my favorite sobriety podcast, Home. Of course I also know I can always check in here and read sobriety blogs or write if I need to. I also can check in with my wonderful sober friend who helps keep me in check at times if things get difficult.  I feel secure in utilizing these tools so that I never have to feel so hopeless again.

Just writing this out now, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this beautiful gift of sobriety. Even in the midst of a divorce and still figuring out who I am as a sober person and working through all of the issues that led me to my addiction, I get to wake up sober and I am in awe of how blessed that makes me because I know the dark side of alcohol abuse. The old me would be looking forward to beginning my drinking at 10 am on the beach during this vacation and continuing until I blacked out each night and made a fool of myself.  This new me, the authentic me, is excited to read on the beach, truly feel the sunshine and sand beneath my toes and sneak out to the beach in the early morning to meditate and practice yoga. I only appreciate these small pleasures now because I understand what a life filled with pain is like.

Life is so much sweeter, sober.

Holidays

Easter on Day 119

Easter

I don’t remember last Easter. I was drunk. My husband took care of filling baskets with sweet treats, hiding plastic coin-filled eggs and hard boiled ones had been decorated by little hands while he oversaw them.  Because I was drunk. Or on my way to being drunk. Last Easter I was still in active addiction and while I may have been physically present, whimsically snapping photos of the decorating festivities while carrying around a wine glass too full with my second or third serving, I wasn’t really there. By that time I knew I had a problem. Well, depending on the day. Some days I toyed with the idea that I just may have a problem while others I assured myself that I certainly did NOT have a problem. I’m a mother with a professional job and a home and a marriage and I volunteer for the PTO and addicts don’t do that! Or do they?

So I don’t remember much of last Easter other than I wasn’t present. I still had that empty feeling. My eyes were always filled with…nothing. Besides the pain I definitely did not want to acknowledge let alone address, I hated holidays and I wanted nothing more than to be numb and stop remembering everything.

This Easter, at 119 days sober, was so much different. So much more beautiful and fulfilling. I’m still fighting the urge to be numb and forget and for whatever reason, (probably that the week leading up to this weekend has just been a shitty one), I’ve really wanted to drink this weekend. But I DIDN’T.

I told my husband-ish (long story to come at some point!) that I’d really like to take care of Easter this year because I just didn’t last year. And so I did. On Friday evening I helped the kids as they decorated eggs and I was actually present. Last night after we put the kids to bed, he brought all the goodies out from their hiding spots and I carefully filled baskets, rearranging items a few times to make sure they were perfect.  I filled 48 plastic eggs with candy and coins. I hid plastic and decorated eggs all around the house.  The entire time I did this, I thought of the gift of my sobriety and how grateful I was to be so fully present, aware and in control of how Easter would turn out for my babies. I even noticed at one point my husband-ish, their father, watching me as I worked and how relaxed he seemed. No worrying for him tonight that Easter wouldn’t be taken care of, that I would pick a fight that would turn ugly and wake the kids or that I might not wake up in the morning with our children.

I awoke with a clear head at 6:30 am to two bright-eyed, eager children who had already peeked downstairs and wanted me to know that the Easter Bunny did indeed visit and could we please, please, please go downstairs NOW! Instead of being hungover and irritable, I got right out of bed and followed them to their baskets and I didn’t have to fake my excitement for them. I snapped pictures and took videos of them on their egg hunt to send to their father who was working an early shift.  When they were a bit more settled and had found all of the eggs and shown me all of the treasures from their baskets, I made cinnamon rolls as a special Easter breakfast with a side of strong coffee for myself. I sipped the hot elixir and watched as they cracked open plastic eggs and fawned over pennies and dimes and chocolates galore while they discussed how well the Easter Bunny had hidden their eggs this year.

I did it. I survived a holiday sober and I enjoyed it. And I will remember it. My kids, at 5 and 7 years old, may not remember this particular Easter, but I will. I know Easter gives hope to so many who celebrate it for religious reasons but this Easter gave me hope in a way I never expected or thought was possible.

I am SO GRATEFUL for my recovery. It has not been easy and there is a long way to go, but DAMNIT I MADE IT TO DAY 119! I made it to an Easter I will remember.