Welcome

Welcome to Living Without Drinking. I am living a life without Alcohol. It has been a long road getting here, winding, with lots of treacherous terrain. In my forty two years of life I have gotten married, gotten divorced, raised an almost adult daughter, had several careers of varying success, and relationships of the same.

The one constant through all of these years, since my middle twenties, was drinking. If it was social, after work, while making dinner, for any occasion, for relaxation, for soothing, it never mattered. It just was. Almost like the light from a lighthouse, alcohol was a beacon calling me home every night. It sounds romantic, but just as one can romanticize a past relationship after it is over, drinking only appeared to be wonderful. In reality it drained my energy, my time, my bank account, my meaningful relationships, my memory and my health.

If you are thinking about living a life without drinking or already are, please join me in sharing your stories, your issues, your hope and your trials. I have found that my most valued accomplishments didn’t happen of my own volition, it took a village, and I am not an expert, but I will be happy to be a piece of pavement in your village, one of the many that will support your steps to a life that I have found to be better than any I could have imagined.

Being Beholden to Your Moods in Sobriety

The past few days I have been dealing with trivial problems that involved lots of calls, hold time, and circular conversations with customer service representatives. The first day I got riled up and couldn’t hold back my frustration on the phone. After what seemed like several eternities, I was back at square one. Don’t pass go, don’t collect two hundred dollars.

The next day I began with fresh hope, new day, someone new to answer my call and hopefully my issue. I tried to mentally chill my mood, whatever happens, who cares, right? Life goes on. Well I was able to stay with that mood for an hour or so and it quickly dissipated into the orneriness of the previous day. What was happening? How could I let a situation sap my mood so easily?

Day three, I got more bad news via email and was looking at another day of what had so far been fruitless phone calls. I gave myself a mental pep talk and steeled myself with a treat (a bagel with cream cheese) carb loading for phone endurance. As I was eating I thought about how, over time, I gave my mind up to alcohol. It was as if I traded a decent amount of my ability to regulate my thoughts and my moods, for daily drinking. And even though I have been living without drinking for a while, I am still not back to my pre-drinking me!

When I was drinking really let everything roll off my back because I knew that at five o’clock I would be soothed by my chardonnay. Now it is very clear that I was not an easygoing person that was drinking, I was a wound tight perfectionist that was shoving any problem or annoyance under a large rug of denial and continuing to drink so that I could live with the growing mountain under that rug. After twenty years of such behavior, it has become a hard habit to shed.

In early sobriety I just felt raw, like everything bad that happened, from the slight to the enormous, might be too much to handle. And now living without drinking I still have to remind myself, “Meg be happy, you are happy, so try to be relaxed, try to breathe, try to keep a kind open mind today.” Although I am in no way in control of my moods yet, I am able to experience my moods sober, and experience what it is to be self-aware enough to talk myself into a better head space. I could never, and would never have bothered to think these things through when I was drinking. I mean I had drinking to do! Duh! Priorities!

I can recognize my inability to regulate my own moods, and that, I hope is the first step of not living a life where my moods control my mental and physical state. My body’s recovery from almost twenty years of drinking has been slow, and the one thing I can tell you is that it does get easier. Remember that alcohol is extremely hard on your mind, and your mind and mood play such an important roll in your long term happiness.

What do you do when nothing seems to be going right?

Living without drinking is enough of a challenge in the early days of sobriety. What happens when the newly sober or even the long term non-drinker is faced with extremely challenging days?

I thought when I stopped drinking that all my problems would vanish and rainbows would follow me around, because, after all, I should get a reward, I…Stopped…Drinking, where was my award? What I completely discounted was that I left tons of messes in my wake while I was drinking. And, unless I went into witness protection, I was going to have to slowly come to terms with those messes, and deal with each one until I cleared my path of those past mistakes.

And my drinking behavior did not discriminate. It touched all aspects of my life; family relationships, friendships, work productivity, financial security, emotional wellness, and overall health.

But, as my head slowly cleared, and my mind got sustenance, rather than poison to support itself, I tried to keep my focus on gratitude. Every time I spent hours on the phone waiting for a customer service agent that ends up hanging up on me mid-call. Every time my work day is full of tedium. Every time I can’t sleep at night. I would try to think of some little thing to be grateful for in my day.

Having gratitude as my go to companion has made the days when I am cleaning up my past or trudging two steps forward and one step back towards my future bearable. And when being grateful for even the littlest things doesn’t work, I take a run, eat a carb or take a nap (or all three:). I also reach out to sober blogs, vlogs, and sober support.

The day will pass and remember, in a few years, when you are happy and sober, you will probably not even remember how frustrating it was!

 

 

Weekends in Early Sobriety

Weekends took on a new meaning when I began living without drinking. Previously, I couldn’t stand being home, even though I didn’t work on the weekends, I couldn’t sit still and could not stand being at home. I would fill my Saturday with errands, taking out Golden Retriever to the beach, hitting golf balls, going to the gym, anything to keep me from facing my actual reality. I was in my thirties, a single mother, that was luckily financially sound, with a boyfriend that I was perpetually unhappy with, (again luckily I never lived with the men I dated), and I had zero life plan. I was coasting till the next five o’clock came around, and that was enough. I had minimized my life to fit my drinking needs. And weekends, that could have been spent sitting on the couch with my daughter, watching tv, were filled with meaningless activities, because I couldn’t face how my need for wine had changed me.

When I first quit drinking weekends stretched before me like an endless precipice of time that needed to be filled. What in the world would I do as a well rested, completely functioning, human? I began to make lists; clean the interior of the car, give the dog a bath, clean the kitchen floor, go get kale and cucumbers and make vegetable juice and on and on. The first few weekends I forced myself to check off most of my list, but I wasn’t motivated at all. I just grudgingly dragged my body around and completed tasks. Then on the third or fourth weekend of sobriety I hit a wall. I just didn’t want to do anything. So I didn’t. I laid in bed most of the weekend reading and watching tv. My daughter had left for college, many states away, by then, so I was on my own to create any weekend schedule that I wanted. I let the lazy weekend idea sink in and spent several months of weekends just cocooned at home. I made sure I had plenty of food so I wouldn’t be tempted to go to the store and then get wine.

Amazingly, after protecting my new habit of not drinking over many weekends, I decided to try re-entering the weekend world. I found that I could go out or be home, which was nice, and I found that I liked both, and was finally feeling happy about either one. My anxiety dissipated and I began to just enjoy whatever the weekend brought. I was able to make plans with friends during the day, then use the evenings to read, meditate, cook or just chill.

Let me know how you are handling weekends living without drinking or trying to!

Enjoying the Present

Staying in the moment has been a challenge, even before I started drinking. When I was focused on a task that I was forced to accomplish, being present became easier. I was not really enjoying being in the moment, but simply required to be. I spent many years focused on getting through the day and on to my relaxation time with my glass of wine.

Now that I am living without drinking my mind wanders more easily. Focus is harder to come by, and can be intermittent at times. Some days are much better than others, and I want to list a few tools that have been beyond helpful in keeping my mind happy, calm and in the moment.

  1. Staying away from caffeine of any kind, especially in the morning
  2. Not eating white carbohydrates, again, especially in the morning
  3. Meditation, which I do right when I wake up, even if only for a few minutes, before I get out of bed. I enjoy Ajahn Brahm, who does a guided meditations on the Buddhist Society of Western Australia’s YouTube channel. There are, of course tons of apps, websites and other YouTubers to choose from, so go crazy! Sometimes if it is the middle of the day, I simply try to focus on my breaths for thirty seconds, and although it took practice, now works relatively well to calm my mind if it is racing.
  4. Drinking enough healthy liquids, for example organic vegetable juice, water (of course), organic herbal teas, hot water with fresh ginger slices, and clear soup or bone broth.
  5. Keeping my blood sugar steady throughout the day. Because wine and many alcoholic beverages have natural or added sugar, I got a huge hit of sugar in the late afternoon, at wine o’clock, and that would keep me up later than I wanted to be and throw my blood sugar levels off the next day as well. Although I am not diabetic, I notice now, living without drinking, that my body still craves an afternoon sugar hit, and by balancing out my intake of carbs and sugars during the day, I keep the cravings manageable.
  6. Sleep. I cannot tell you how naps have saved my mind and allowed me to be more present in my life. I used to make excuses when I napped during the day, now I schedule a nap in my day whenever possible. And if you can’t nap, try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night, or as much as possible. If you need convincing, check out Dr. Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep at your local library or on Amazon. It was the scariest book I’ve read in a long time, but definitely worth my time.
  7. Getting a full physical from your physician. I waited a bit longer than I should to do this and it was a mistake. I found out I was deficient in some necessary vitamins and nutrients, especially important given I had been a regular drinker for twenty years. By adding specific vitamins and foods to my diet, my body slowly healed and my mind did as well.

Please feel free to share your ideas and tools that you have used to enjoy the moment and be present in your life!

Goal Setting in Early Sobriety

I have always been better at ruminating about goal setting than deciding and setting goals and breaking them down into steps that can be accomplished in a manageable process. Also, I was always a fan of results that come via magic wand and Cinderella’s little animal helpers. Unfortunately, because I have neither wand nor singing animal staff my goals have tended to be big ideas with stagnant follow through.

Making my way to five o’clock and my first glass of wine was goal enough for years while I was drinking.

When I stopped my alcohol intake, I noticed that even little goals and tasks were easier to get done. The first few weeks were just about staying away from people and places that reminded me of fun drinking times because living without drinking was my main goal.

In early sobriety, to maintain my goal of not drinking; I read one sober blog post a day, reached out on Reddit and other sober groups to post anonymously about my challenges, watched sober vloggers on YouTube, researched and read about addiction and alcoholism, exercised a bit every day, and tried to eat more organic fruits and vegetables.

Getting through each day without my ‘reward’ seemed like it would be an insurmountable task. But, as the days went on and I kept my new schedule of sober activities to fill my evenings, things got minutely easier. Then as weeks went by things got a little easier, then a while after that things got a lot easier (and by things I mean all aspects of my life). Challenges still rear their heads on a daily basis, but I added meditation to my routine, and that along with less anxiety from not drinking, has helped curb outside stressors.

My goal in early sobriety was to stay sober, because I wasn’t really living when I was drinking, I was subsisting. Living without drinking has given me a chance to be a partner and a mother and a friend and a worker in ways that are reliable, consistent and honorable. The biggest goal, living without drinking, happens one day at a time.

 

Weight Loss in Early Sobriety

When I was drinking, I adored going to the gym. I ran on the treadmill, did a circuit of weight machines, and crunches interspersed with more cardio. I used to go twice a day. I had other motivation, a boyfriend that was as close to zero body fat as humanly possible, whose biceps were the center of my universe. Shallow, I know, but it worked to keep me in shape.

Then one day we broke up and my drinking got heavier and my working out got lighter. Amazing how alcohol became more appealing because it was always there for me. So I put on empty, pointless, regretful pounds from over-drinking, and over-eating to soak up the wine. By the time I made the decision to stop drinking, my body had transformed from slim and muscular to flabby and fat. Although I didn’t gain a ton of pounds, my body was a wreck, with a belly from wine and a complete loss of muscle tone.

So wallah! I stopped drinking! Look at my watch, look at the calendar, time for the pounds to drop off and my muscles to reappear. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the energy or motivation to go back to the gym twice a day, and I was hungry all the time, mainly for carbs, probably because my body was yearning to fill itself with what I had trained it to crave, empty calories. Not only was I fighting to stay sober, I was expecting other miracles to drop in my lap right away. They didn’t. And they didn’t for a while, but I decided that if I followed through with living without alcohol, the rest of my goals would eventually begin to move in the right direction. Because what no one wants to say is that alcohol kills everything good in your life. That’s right. It is a sneaky, sly and cunning addiction. It gave me a few hours of soothing and took away time that I could have spent with my daughter, my family, my friends, my partner and my work colleagues. Wine took my money, my goals, my focus, my energy, my brainpower and my values. And I readily handed it all over for years and years.

Living without drinking did take a while to sink in, and I had had close to a year of sobriety in the past, but this time I was older, this time I knew I had a chance at a better life, and I knew if I didn’t grab on to this chance, I might not get another. Sometimes chances to change don’t come again. So if  you are sober today hold tight, don’t drink, use any assets you have access to; meetings, blogs, vlogs, books, sleep, eat or pray. Reach out to one of us sober peeps. We are all in this together.

I did lose weight, after about the sixty day mark my body realized I wasn’t going to feed it a diet based mainly on chardonnay anymore. It realized that nutrient rich food was here to stay and exercise was going to be jogging and yoga, and it started to give up the pounds. And by that point, I liked looking in the mirror so much better than I had for almost twenty years, that I didn’t really care too much about my body. I was beginning to love, myself.

Getting out of Myself

Noticing major changes, due to living without drinking, took longer than I expected. The changes that I did notice right away were the small ones. My vision got better almost immediately. I don’t know the science behind it, but it was very noticeable. I was interested in spending time making plans, and actually following through on said plans. I was hungry and tired all the time. So I slept and ate. I tried to listen to my body, except when it wanted wine.

Now I am actually noticing bigger changes. This newfound ability to know that I don’t know my own boundaries. When I was drinking, I thought I knew when I was treating people well or poorly. I thought I knew when others were treating me well or poorly. Now I know that I was numbing myself to the world, good and bad. Living without drinking has given me a chance to see that I have work to do on myself. Work that I can only do sober. Work that requires me to get out of my own head and reflect on situations and people with more thoughtfulness. Stepping back from my knee jerk reactions and away from my usual reactions. It is a daily challenge to hit the pause button, and think for a bit before I decide where my boundaries lie now. It has made me sympathetic in certain cases where before I would be judgemental, and intolerant in cases where I used to be a doormat.

Getting out of myself isn’t a practice that I’m looking to perfect, but a journey that I look forward to continuing.