Staying practical

Day 3 and I need to focus on the practicalities of staying sober. If I let my mind stray, the talking myself out of it voice starts to dominate. I went to a meeting at lunchtime today. I found it useful, hearing other people’s stories. But I also felt guilty because I didn’t tell my children where I was going, and it was as though I was sneaking around behind their backs. As I left the meeting, the familiar I’m not so bad thoughts crept in, and it is these notions that I want to push aside. Comparing my drinking story to others is unhelpful as it can derail me, and may give me a false sense of security. The point is that I have been feeling bad about my drinking, I have been aware of its creeping up on my life, I have been watching myself slowly sinking. It doesn’t matter that perhaps I haven’t hit the proverbial rock bottom; I just know that I need to do something about it.

So, back to the practicalities. The unwrapping of why I’ve been drinking so much can come later.

I still need to keep it simple: for me, this means the alcohol free substitute around 6pm, the tweaking of the evening routine, and the quietening of the You’re OK voice. And just moving forward a few hours at a time; any faster, and I overthink it.

Tricky stuff.

21 thoughts on “Staying practical”

  1. Hey – comparing ourselves to others is just part of life. But here’s the thing – even if you haven’t ended up in a ditch, or losing a job, or in prison, or whatever “low-bottom” stories the folks at the meeting are sharing, I’m sure that huge parts of their story are exactly the same as yours. The shame, the despair, the broken promises, etc. The bottom doesn’t have to be in a ditch. It just has to be the point where you stop digging.

  2. Here’s the thing…you MUST get through the darkness to find the light. Some of this journey is just ugly. It’s white knuckled teeth baring awful but that part is short. Like a baby with colic…it feels like its going to last forever but they eventually grow out of it and then you don’t remember it as being all that bad – okay…that part’s not true…my oldest had colic and I remember exactly what it was like. AND I remember what very early sobriety was like.

    The point is that you have to get through it to find your way to the good. Just grit your teeth and close your eyes and before you know it, you’ll be sitting on a pink cloud.

    Good luck.

  3. Hi Annie — I’ve followed you for a while but (selfishly) not commented until now. I’ve been sober since end of February. the first days were absolutely horrible, and I really didn’t think I would be able to do it. AA was hard at the beginning, and I didn’t understand what people were talking about a lot of the time. It is so much better now, almost six months in, and I know you have heard this a million times before, but maybe one more time won’t hurt: It gets easier and better and there will be a time when you don’t always feel miserable that you can’t drink like other folks. There will be a time, in fact, when you are so relieved that you got sober before your kids went through childhood without a mom who was present for them and before your husband decided that that your last drunk was his last straw. So relieved and grateful.

    In any case, just a few random thoughts about how to get through the next few weeks, until it gets a little easier:

    1) Go to meetings — try to do 90 in the next 90 days. I know that sounds ridiculous and impossible with all your other family obligations, but for me, there were two reasons to do it anyway: (1) It was daily reminder/accountability check — if I knew I was going to a meeting, I wouldn’t drink before to keep from having to say I slipped (yeah, I am that shallow), (2) Finding and getting to a meeting soaked up some of the obsessive energy I used to spend on finding and planning my evening drinking (would their be wine where we were eating that night? Should I have a glass before I go to make sure I get “enough?”, do I have something to drink when I get home to unwind before I go to bed?) Really, we always found time and a way to drink ourselves drunk — we can find a way to stay sober and get to meetings.

    2) Get a sponsor, even an online one temporarily. Try to find someone who is in a similar circumstance (a mom, for eg.). Blog friends are great, but there is something about talking to a real person, plus she can help you with the language and traditions of AA and help you see how they can fit your particular circumstances.

    3) You mentioned the book Living Sober — I consumed that the night after my first AA meeting. It has great practical advice and, in my opinion, breaks the process into some very doable steps. Also it makes the process seem so normal.

    4) Re other’s stories of their “bottoms:” I complained to my sponsor about this very thing my first weeks in the program. My group has a few recovering alcoholics and crack addicts, straight out of jail. So not me, I complained. I am not like these people, I told her. Her answer: sometimes you go to meetings to remember/connect with your past. Sometimes you go to see your future. I’m not saying you (or I) would ever become crack addicts. But you (and I) have seen the hold that this substance has on us — how we choose it again and again over people and lives we love. As another AA member, who had what they called a “soft bottom” (as I did, as I hope you do) said: “I wasn’t at my bottom, but I could see my bottom from there.”

    5) For the first weeks, until you feel steady in your sobriety, don’t do anything else but stay sober. Really. Take days off work, skip social events you just can’t face, have pizza overnight for dinner, ask your husband to take on lots more tasks (just for a bit), sit in your room and read trashy novels or watch crap TV and eat ice cream. All the rest of the self improvement — slimming down, being the perfect classroom mom, thriving at work, making healthy meals 24-7, hiking 100 miles a day, doing all or any of the 12 steps, learning the names of all the trees in the forest out back — all can and should wait until keeping sober doesn’t eat up all your time. I promise, this period will be over before you know it, and you’ll be able to face all the other tasks, and daily living, with tons more success and energy. Think of it as having the flu or breaking your leg. You just have to concentrate on getting better right now.

    6) Give yourself some credit — these first few weeks are REALLY REALLY hard. But the one thing that makes them even harder is being only half in (It is why, I think, AA says you have to be ready (or surrender) or admit your life has become unmanageable with alcohol in it). If you are playing the “maybe I don’t need to go through all this — maybe I am ok” — game the whole time, every moment of pain (and this is painful) seems like a masochistic waste of time. If you see it as a (again, painful) step to a life of freedom and peace, well, then it’s easier to bear and to move onto the next moment, and then the next, and the next, and pretty soon, you won’t be able to imagine wanting to go back to the drinking life.

    (7) Try meditation. There are free online guided meditations (I like Tara Brach) and even cheap phone apps. Just start with ten minutes (I used to do it during cocktail hour), even less. I am totally not the meditating type, but really found (and find) it soothing in the way that first glass of wine used to be. Also, listen to some AA speakers — google Sandy Beach, AA — he is hilarious, breaks down the process really well, and totally has my (and I bet your, and I bet most alcoholics) number, but no lecturing or guilt. Really, he shows you can recover and be happy and have fun and laugh at this ridiculous joke the universe played on us alcoholics.

    OMG, what a windbag I am — but I want this for you. Please feel free to use any of this that is helpful and disregard the rest. And don’t drink, just one more minute, hour, or day.

    Take care! Kate

  4. Yikes, one more thing (will she ever shut up?) — don’t worry about not telling your kids about going to meetings, or anyone else. You’re not lying if you just say your are going to lunch with friends or to visit some friends. Or nothing at all. (Did we tell them every time we made an emergency trip to pick up wine or hid a bottle in the back of the shelf?). Kids have a way of understanding (and supporting) things their parents do to get better. My guess is they will figure it out — and support it — before you ever get around to explaining. And (and this is totally my opinion, not sure if it is accepted child psychology), make sure they never get the message that you are NOT going to a meeting or NOT doing something else to support your sobriety because of them (e.g.., I’ve heard you say you can’t go into treatment because of your family). You may not need or want treatment for a lot of reasons, and you may skip AA meetings for a lot of reasons, but don’t put it on your kids. It is too much of a burden (and I speak as a child of an alcoholic) to come to believe that your beloved parent did not get well because of you.

    Here endth the lecture. Feel free to block me now for taking up all the comment space.

    1. I wanted to thank you for taking so much time to write here. I’ve read and reread your comments and have jotted down the ideas on a piece of paper I’m carrying around in my bag. I googled Sandy Beach and will listen to him, and I’ve been thinking about Tara Brach for a while as Mrs D is also a fan. 90 meetings in 90 days? That may be too much for me at the moment, and I’m going away next week, but I’m aiming for 3 meetings a week. Thanks also for the advice about my family. Everything you’ve written here I am finding helpful. Heartfelt thanks, Kate. Annie x

      1. Thanks Annie for listening to all that rambling. Please take what works for you and ignore the rest. You are doing so well and this is the hardest part. Also, I travel a lot (a LOT), mostly for fun and often to big drinking cities (spent the weekend in Napa Valley, for example). I have become a huge fan of what I think of as AA tourism — finding and going to meetings in other cities. I just tell any travel companions I am off for a walk (or a walking meditation and my phone will be off). Not only do I get the support I need to get through a tour of the Mondavi vineyard (for example), but I meet FASCINATING people and immediately feel like a local. Plus, I get great advice on restaurants and fun places to visit. I even once found an awesome (free!) housing attorney to get my daughter out of a lease with a horrible landlord. I’ve never been to a meeting where I was not welcomed and made to feel safe and cared for. One (older) AA friend (from NYC, in publishing) said he used to love his bars because all these funny, smart drunks were there — and when he got to AA, he found out that the ones who hadn’t died, had ended up in the rooms! Kate

  5. it’s really just a case of getting through the first few weeks. the further away you can get from the ‘voice’ the more clarity you will gain. I did find that when I went to AA meetings I couldn’t relate to what I was hearing there and to be honest going to those meetings were not a positive thing for me. I know they are invaluable to others though and I’m not discouraging you from going. I found my support online through blogs.
    My new drink is sparkling water with lime. Sounds well boring but I love it and I can drink as much as I like with no negative side effects!!
    We are all here for you and please blog first if you really fee like you’re going to drink. xxxMtts.

    1. I am a big fan of sparkling water and lime. I hear what you’re saying about AA. At the moment, I find some meetings helpful, some less so, but I feel they are better than my sloping around at home, worrying! Thanks for your support; it is comforting to know I have an online community here. Annie x

  6. Annie, the practical stuff was/is so important to my very early recovery. Get enough rest. Let my body heal. Stay away from alcohol events for the most part. Try really hard to look for things, people, ideas, etc that support sobriety, and run like hell from things that are toxic and pull me down. Day by day these things add up to positive changes.

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