Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Feeling Playful on Day 299

Dear Readers,
My dear hubby is letting me post a real photo of him.
Here we are playing "Let's pretend we are young and this won't hurt your back!"
I love to play!
Maybe that's why I loved teaching kindergarten. The children always made me laugh, and they lived and learned by playing.

Playing makes life easier. It even makes cleaning the house a joy, if I play "Let's pretend this is fun!" (Ha) 

I can take things way too seriously, and when I do, I make myself miserable. 
When I accept life on lighter, more playful mood, that's when I am happiest. 

In AA, there is a saying, "Fake it 'till you make it." I think of this as playing, too.
"Play" being happy sober, and one day, you will be happy sober.

I read in a book once, that we have a moral obligation to the people closest to us to be as happy as we can be. I owe it to my husband, family, and friends, to be sober. 
Because by not drinking, I am happier. I am more playful, lighter, and more loving.

This does not mean that I am unreal, or that I don't express my authentic self and feelings.
It means in my daily life, I want to make things a little easier for those around me.
It also doesn't mean that it's easy.
Being happy takes work.
Being sober takes work.
But it can be work that creates joy, and that joy starting with me can spread outwards.

And so to you dear readers, I wish you a playful day!
With Love!
On Day 299

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Fun on Day 294

Flowers on my Deck
Dear Readers,
I have been having a hard time coming up with a blog post.
I think it's partly because, it's summer and I AM HAVING FUN!!
I have been focusing on meeting people for walks, coffee, yoga, golfing, or anything.
I even pulled weeds from my garden today! SHOCK!
My flowers on my deck are lovely, my husband is handsome, and I am rather happy.
And I am sober.

Last summer was not so fun.
I was struggling, trying to stop drinking.
I was still hiding my drinking from my Loved One.
My urges were awful.
I just couldn't do it.
Until, one day, I could.

It took a leap of faith, a hope, a dream, that there was a better life for me. One filled with love and laughter, with flowers, and sanity. It has been worth the fight. My marriage is better, I am reaching out to people more, I am growing up a little bit. 

I just need to remember to keep being kind to myself. I still get mad at myself sometimes, and as my therapist said, getting mad doesn't help me solve a problem. I am slowly, (very slowly), letting go of my rigidity. I even went to yoga without my make-up on! It's a little thing, but yet freeing.

If you are still drinking, or struggling, don't give up hope.
But take action.
I couldn't wish my drinking problem away.
I had to do everything in my power to change, asking for help.
You too, are worth it.

With Love On Day 294

Monday, June 15, 2015

Drinking in Minnesota

Dear Readers,
Several alcohol related laws have been passed in my state of Minnesota.
The first is a law that allows breweries to sell "growlers" (64 oz.) of beer on Sundays. This law also lets restaurants sell drinks at 8 am. The full article from the Star Tribune is here
There are no liquor store sales in this state on Sundays. So this is an exception to that law.
There was quite a discussion on if we should allow Sunday sales. The new brew pubs wanted to be able to sell their craft beers on Sunday, so this was a compromise. 

Why we needed to be able to drink alcohol at 8 am? I have no idea.
But the people in the article were happy they could have a drink early in the day.

By 9 a.m. the Mennings each had their alcoholic beverage in hand. She had a screwdriver and he a craft beer.
“It was hugely different. Now we have a lot more day to use,” said Menning, of south Minneapolis. “It was perfect.”
The second law is one that stiffens the consequences for mid-level DWIs. The full article from the Star Tribune is here.
This is interesting. I read all the news, and I had no idea this law was coming. 
It's a little tricky to understand. 
The legal limit for a DWI is still .08. It's considered a misdemeanor.
The Legislature this year lowered the threshold for a gross misdemeanor drunken driving offense to a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .16 percent. That’s still twice the legal limit for misdemeanor DWIs, but it’s .04 percentage point lower than the previous trigger for seriously impaired driving violations.

The change will expose those defendants to maximum one-year jail terms, up from 90 days under the misdemeanor standard. It would triple the current $1,000 maximum fine. And it would authorize stiffer bail, result in much higher auto insurance rates and more painful legal bills. Gross misdemeanor convictions also can mean stiffer penalties for subsequent DWIs.
One out of every seven licensed Minnesota drivers has at least one DWI. 
Some lawyers who represent those charged with drunken driving say the lower threshold is too punitive. But supporters say the tougher law is worth it, because it will save lives.
Research shows that the likelihood of getting involved in an accident spikes above a BAC of .15

In the past three years, an average of 5,024 people a year were charged in Minnesota for driving with blood-alcohol levels between .16 and .19. Nearly 6 of 10 were first-offenders, according to the Department of Public Safety. Minnesota has the highest DWI recidivism rate in the nation, at over 40 percent.
From 2011 through 2013, 77 people died in Minnesota and 42 others were injured in crashes involving drivers with BAC levels between .16 and .19. An average of 99 people died each year in all alcohol-related accidents in Minnesota in those years, and an average of 2,440 were injured.
Alcohol-related traffic crashes in Minnesota cost an estimated $204 million in medical expenses, property damage and lost productivity in 2013.
Some of the comments after the DWI article mentioned that there is no public transportation from their suburbs to fun downtown night spots or ballparks. That is true. But someone in the party could be a sober driver.
As I see it here in our state, there are two forces at work here.
One is the money alcohol brings to the state. The other is public safety. I just wonder how we can help both work together. Our mind set of drinking and driving must change. We still think we should be able to drink and drive, not fully understanding that even having "two" glasses of alcohol are impairing to drivers. 

People have the freedom to drink, but need to take the responsibility that comes with that freedom.
I for one, will not be drinking today, however.

On Day 284

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Vibrant on Day 282

Dear Readers,
My husband has been home on vacation for a week. 
We have had some fun and did some work around the house.
Here's the best. Although we had some minor disagreements, we got along the whole week.
No big arguments and no picking on each other (much).
This makes me happy.
Because I don't want to live my life as a "wish I could drink" person, making his life miserable.
I want to be the person who loves my life sober, which in turn will make his life better.
Last night, we went to our favorite outside place to eat. It was full so we ended up sitting at the outside bar.
Sipping our bubbly water with lemon and lime.
It was a little anxiety producing for me.
I thought of all the times I had been there and had been drinking plenty.
I still have strong feelings connected to places we love to go, where we used to drink.
But once again, I focused on the food, and making nice small talk with my husband.
Lisa, (her blog here!), said it perfectly in a comment.
The word she used was "vibrant".
I focused on that word last night, and she was right.
The food tasted clean, and sweet.
The people watching was fun.
The colors of the flowers, my pretty dress, the blue sky were alive.
In fact, the whole night was alive!
I am awake this morning, happy and free.
Oh, and we are off to a movie!
I can smell the popcorn from here!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Place to Belong

Dear Readers,
I went to one of my favorite AA meetings yesterday.
It was one of the first ones I went to after I finally decided I needed to stop drinking.
Although I have far from perfect attendance, I know many of the people.
When the leader asked if someone had some sober time they'd like to celebrate, I raised my hand to celebrate my 9 months.
I shared the story of my last humiliating drinking time, along with my cochlear implant operation and healing, because both of these things affected me greatly.

I learn something every time I step into this room. This time was no different.
I was humbled, when the people who have seen me over these last 9 months, made some lovely comments on my growth.
The most touching comment came from a man who I had not even known had seen me that much.
He said that when I first came down the stairs, I was in such pain. That I was "in a mess". (Not his exact words, but as I can't hear everything it was something like that.)
He said, now every time he sees me, I have a beautiful smile on my face. 
That it brings him joy.
I almost cried.
I had no idea.

Another lady at the meeting shared how she had killed someone in an accident. Although the accident had not been totally her fault, she had been drinking and so she was sentenced to prison. She said she will never be able to forget what she had done. Gone from the top of her career to nothing. 
The room was so quiet.
This could have been me, as I did drive after drinking many, many times.
One time, I even blacked out while driving and have no memories of how I got from one place to another in my car.

This is why I think it is so important not to judge or compare other stories as worse or better than our stories. They are just different stories. All having to do with the pain caused by this drug of alcohol.

After the meeting, we stayed and talked. I hugged the lady who shared her story. I hugged the man who gave me the gift of his comment.
I hugged everyone I could.
Because this is what we have; a place where we can come and share our shame as well as our light, and everyone will understand.

I have the same feeling connecting to all of you sober bloggers and readers. It is the light you all shine for me, your stories, your whole self that helps heal me. I will always need this. I also want to one day, be able to give the gift of words to someone like was given to me in this meeting.

We all need a place to belong. Not just in a place of recovery, but in many areas of our lives.
It is my deepest wish for all those who suffer with drinking problems, that you can find a place to share and get strength. Whether it is here on-line, or a meeting, or a therapist.
A safe place, where you can start to heal.

With Gratitude on Day 279

Monday, June 8, 2015

Facing Fears

Dear Readers,
Stopping drinking was one of the scariest things I have done. 
I had so many fears. I didn't ever think I'd have fun again, see friends, celebrate anything.
I just couldn't see beyond these fears.
But, because I couldn't see any other choice except to stop, I plowed ahead, scared and all.
I did everything possible to help myself in recovery; starting a blog, going to AA, reaching out to safe yoga teachers, getting a sponsor, telling my friends and family and posting on the Women's for Sobriety website.
I had to face all my fears day in and day out.
It was hard.
At first.
Now, my fears are fading away.

Last night I went out to dinner at fun place downtown with my husband. He has off this week and we are having a "staycation" as we have some work around the house to do. 
When I first stopped drinking, I hated going out. I pouted, and made my husband's night miserable. How could I enjoy it if I didn't drink?
Now, I am clear headed and joyful. 
I have had to practice facing the fear of going out, and I am ever so much stronger. I have practiced having good conversation, focusing on good food, and even picking what alcohol free drink I like. (I am also realizing it is selfish of me to make my husband's life unhappy because of my pouting. )

Today we went zip lining. It was a fun experience and not scary once I had a little practice. 
Once I tried the safe practice line, I was good to go. I was a little shaky at first, but with each line, it got easier. 
Just like zipping, I had to practice in safe situations to build up my confidence that I can indeed, be sober and happy. I have been to birthdays, anniversaries, and other parties where I celebrated without drinking. I have met friends for lunch and dinner, all without drinking, and all being happy. 
But it took time and practice.
Zip Lining!

I read somewhere that you build up your sober muscles. That you get stronger the more you practice. Facing your fear, and doing it anyway, is a timely saying. 
I didn't do this alone. When I read about all the other people who have stayed sober and are happy, I hold their hands and tell myself I can do that too. When I hear all the people in AA or WFS that are sober and happy, I want that too.

Yes, it was scary. 
Yes, it is still scary at times.

One of the best books I have read is Mindfulness and the 12 Steps, by Theresa Jacobs-Stewart. I highly recommend it if you go to AA or are doing the steps. 
She has you hold your fearful self in loving kindness. 
"May I be free from mental torment, safe within and without." 

So I encourage all of you on this journey, to face your fear of not drinking, giving yourself the gift of time to practice getting stronger. 

With Courage on Day 277

Saturday, June 6, 2015

9 Months and Walking Strong

A thousand moments I had just taken for granted –
Mostly because I had assumed that there would be a thousand more.
 - Morgan Matson

Dear Readers,
I saw this message posted on FaceBook today, and I was moved.
It isn't new, but I think I was ready to hear it.
I have just this life to make a difference, one little moment at a time.
To create small, meaningful moments, and interactions.
This is what I think is central to life.

Every day I stay sober, helps me and everyone I love.
In fact, it helps people beyond my circle of life.
This is what I can give to the world right now.
This is the most important thing I can do to make sure I don't hurt myself, someone I love, and even people I don't know.

What other things can I do to create meaning in my life?
I can write this blog.
I can read and comment on other people's blogs.
I can share my story at meetings. 
I can share my laughter with friends.
I can hug my Loved One more.
I can build people up.
I can text a friend or family member, and give them a message of hope.
I can clean the house for my Loved One.
I can walk outside.
I can create a positive interaction.
I can give the gift of attention to someone.
I can make a person smile.

Sometimes I have been focused on making meaning in a big way, and not noticing all the small ways I can help the world.

When I look at what I consider are "good" days, one or more of these things happen - I meet a friend.
I talk to the workers in the coffee shop.
I go to yoga and hug a yoga teacher or yoga buddy.
I get outside.
I read something, learn.
I talk to someone in my family.
I hug and kiss my Loved One, and pay attention to what he says.
I write comments on sober blogs.

This week I had no romancing the drink. I had no wishing I could drink. I was at peace with not drinking. It didn't even enter into my thoughts. For this I am so grateful. 

On Day 275

Thursday, June 4, 2015

How Deeply Can I Love

Dear Readers,
I still struggle on days. Not with drinking, but with thoughts of worthlessness, low energy and low mood, and feelings of loneliness. I still struggle with accepting who I am, and who I am not.

My therapist wants me to continue to work on being kind and compassionate to myself when I am physically and emotionally low.
I am re-reading the book The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown. I read it a year ago, but never really thought deeply and applied what I read. I am ready now.
(Anne, from Ainsobriety has told us about the course she took on this book. I found the on-demand course here.)

I tend to be an all or nothing girl. I am either estacally happy, or very depressed. I am either super busy or reading all day. I get so angry with myself when don't live up to who I think I should be. That takes a lot of energy. If I can learn to love myself a little bit more, I will have a better chance of living happier, healthier, and able to give more of myself to others.

I don't want to be me. Well, I want to be some of me, and some of other people.

I want to be someone who can run miles, who goes to hard yoga everyday, gets invited to all  the "in" parties, keeps her house clean, who can play her guitar and sing and hear it, has good physical health, eats healthy food all the time, cooks good meals for her husband, volunteers, has cute clothes, is thin, has and sees many friends, sees her family every month, meditates, never feels lonely, and makes money.

Now, reading this list makes me smile, but honestly? That is who I want to be.
Instead, I am someone who can walk, can go to one or two hard yoga classes a week, cleans her house about once a month, can't hear her guitar or sing anymore, has a bad back and weak wrists, sometimes eats healthy, never cooks, used to volunteer at school, still has some cute clothes, is still thin, has friends but most of them work, sees family about twice a year (they all live out of town), never mediates, feels lonely at times, suffers from anxiety and depression, writes a sober blog, and is retired.

When I was teaching, my career ran my life. Now that I am retired, I am learning to live a whole different way. It is such a struggle for me. I wish it came naturally. Some of my retired friends love retirement. They did not have these issues.

But, they are not me, and I am not them. 
And this is what is at the heart of the matter. 
My therapist wants me to find a gentler, kinder way for me to walk in my life.
Looking at my childhood, at all I have overcome, and really loving myself deeply.

With Acceptance on day 273.