day 21

Three weeks.

The boyfriend (initially typo-ed that as a plural, “boyfriends,” at first, yikes!!!) came over for a quickie this morning. Oh, the joys of working from home with flexible hours. Snuggling under the covers, I said, “Today marks three weeks of no drinking! Know what that means? I’m a ninja!” He laughed and said he was proud of me. “Proud?” I asked. He said he admired my willpower.

Later, after he left, I realized I’d missed a call from one of the VPs of my company.

After that bit of impropriety, I buckled myself into the laptop and got a lot of work done.

I’ve lost five pounds over the past three weeks. That was a bit of a surprise because I would’ve thought the calories from drinking had been amply replaced with juice, tonic water, candy and cake. I’m thin and reasonably fit so I wasn’t trying to lose any pounds, but I’ve noticed these are exactly the five pounds that make my clothes fit just right and take away the dilemma of the in-between-sizes syndrome. I think most of it was bloat and fluid retention. Five pounds of squishy, squashy liquid I carried around day to day. Gross. My skin has become so much nicer in these past weeks as well. My skin is ok for a 37 year old, but I’ve never had great skin, so this change alone is worth committing to a lifetime of never being soggy again.

 

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day 19

Just shy of 3 weeks. That’s notable for me — over a decade ago, somebody had quoted somewhere that “it takes 3 weeks to make or break a  habit.” It stuck with me and whether it’s true because my brain projected it as such and my behaviors followed suit, or it’s true because credible research on human behavior has found some significant cause/effect relationship with that stretch of time doesn’t really matter. Whatever the reason, it’s held true for me from quitting cigarettes to developing the habit of making my bed every morning. The foundation of the habit (or the eradication of it) is built in the first 21 days. It’s like my brain will build the main highways in that time, and various connections and bridges may form over time, but the main thoroughfare is in place.

I still haven’t decided what I’ll do with myself at the end of 30 days. I realize that to the outside observer, I probably seem like I’m flirting with disaster as I flirt with the thought of drinking again. However, I’ve felt a sea change over the past few years. I can’t quite pinpoint the combination of events or trace the evolution of my emotional health but several years ago I realized that I had more self respect now than ever in my life. On one hand, it didn’t take too awful much to reach that point because mine is a history of low self esteem and self destructive behaviors. On the other hand, that I can like myself enough to develop a new found respect for what I am and what I think I deserve is a considerable achievement. I had a series of recognitions: that I won’t tolerate an abusive relationship again. That I might, in order to keep my job, have to grovel and eat shit like everybody else does from time to time, but I won’t tolerate being verbally bullied indefinitely. That I won’t let somebody negotiate me down from what I think I rightfully deserve (be it respect in a relationship, a salary, or whatever). That I won’t continue to abuse my body and ignore the repercussions.

It’s been a while since drinking appealed to me. Even when I was drinking, it didn’t appeal to me. I did it because I couldn’t resist the cravings, thought I couldn’t manage without a cushion of numbness and inebriation, or didn’t know what the hell else to do with myself if I wasn’t drinking. I was long past the point of enjoying the buzz and the effects of drunkenness. More than anything, it was a burden. I hated the way I hated myself the day after. I feel sure that whatever I do at the end of 30 days, it will be different because if I end up drinking too much again, I’ll be increasingly intolerant of how I’m treating myself and it’ll be like it was with cigarettes — once I felt freedom, just for a little while, I never quit quitting until I finally got the hang of it. If I don’t get the hang of moderation, I’ll simply have to fight tooth and nail for 100% sobriety. If I do get the hang of it, my evolving sense of self respect will sustain it.

day 16

I keep thinking about what I’ll do when my 30 days is up. Perhaps I shouldn’t be thinking about that until it’s day 30? I suspect that’s what the experts would say. I say that if I don’t think about it now, the likelihood of my returning to my previous habits is too great. I have a variety of options after 30 days sober:

Keep going: Accumulate dry days until I no longer count them. Become a teetotaler, with all the struggles that will entail as I entertain then deny cravings, convince myself six times in a night to purchase alcohol, and convince myself seven times not to buy anything.

Return to my old habits: The worst option and one that I’m afraid of. Sporadically get totally wasted and regret it for days. Regularly drink 5-6 nights per week, 3-5 drinks each night, and go through life with a low level hangover at all times. Having woken up all these mornings without the slightest hangover, I realize how many mornings I allowed myself to feel like shit. How much I accepted feeling shitty as my baseline.

Moderate aggressively: Become one of those people that has a few on holidays and the occasional glass of wine at a dinner party. A few drinks a few times a year.

Moderate with moderation: No drinking Sunday through Thursday. This has actually been successful for me in the past. Obviously, it wasn’t successful for the long term because here I am.

Moderate with more moderation: Limit myself to 4-5 total drinks per week, Fridays and Saturdays only.

Yes, I still have the pipe dream that I can be moderate. I don’t know if this is ignorant and foolish, or attainable. I like to think it’s attainable. After all, I’ve set a lot of other difficult goals in life and achieved them. I worry that I’ll never be able to have one or two drinks without sliding down that slippery slope into sogginess. (Again.) I worry that I will be able to do it, but it will be agonizing because my physiology and psychology will never reach a point where I don’t crave drinking until I’m drunk and that each drink will be a strenuous exercise in restraint and self-imposed moderation that doesn’t quite “fit” me. Then I think, oh fuck it, may as well just suffer as a teetotaler until it’s no longer suffering and move on with my life. I mean, what is it that I want? The pursuit of happiness, a clear head, a good night’s sleep, the time and energy to accomplish what I want in life, etc. Certainly the simplest way to do that is 100% sobriety, indefinitely. Maybe not the easiest, but the simplest. That’s the appeal of quitting. The reasons for quitting might be convoluted and incomprehensible to others, but measuring success is simple: you imbibed or you didn’t.

 

day 15

The little tests continue: on Thursday, there was a street fair in my neighborhood so the SO and I wandered up and down the avenue, looking at the vendors’ wares and people watching. I knew my favorite food truck would be there so I had suggested dinner by way of the fair — these people with the truck are from Trinidad and good god, what they serve from a truck is amazing. Along with music, food and vendors, there was of course more than a few establishments selling beer and wine. One tent had pints of beer for $3. I ate red  velvet cupcakes instead.

Came home with the SO and watched him drink a couple vodka and lemonades. That’s actually not that bad. The fragrance of vodka has never been one to draw me in and make me want one. (I know it’s said that vodka is odorless, but I can detect its scent.) He always asks, too, if it’s ok for him to mix up a couple drinks’ worth and bring them to my place. Because he’s so considerate of me, I never object to his drinking in front of me. I figure he’s not the one with the problem, after all. Or maybe he does have a problem that I don’t know about, but that’s not my battle to win.

The weekends continue to be difficult. There is a part of me that believes Fridays entitle me to relaxation and relaxation equals beer or wine. And my imagination paints a nice picture: me on the couch, with a glass of cabernet, watching a film noir movie or reading a book, feet up on the coffee table, in bed at a decent hour so I can get up early and go right to my studio. Except I end up buzzed by 7:00pm, finished with the bottle by 8:30pm, bored and drunk, and I wake up feeling like shit — physically like shit because one bottle of wine is too much for a 130lb body, and mentally because I’ve let myself down and acted pathetic. The “easy” solution would be to stop after two glasses, but I am incapable of buying a bottle and not finishing it in the same day.

Last night I drank sparkling cider and stitched together a sketchbook using Coptic binding. I’m teaching myself the binding method so I can use it for a larger artist-book project. The sketchbook kind of looks like hell, but it’ll just bang around in my bag collecting notes and sketches so it doesn’t really matter. I learned the method and with practice I can perfect it.

Now here I am at Saturday, again sipping sparkling cider. My house is a wreck, a hovel. This is unlike me… at least, it’s unlike me sober. Drinking I am liable to leave dishes in the sink and kick clothes to the floor. Sober, I’m a neat freak. Or was. I’ve spent the week luxuriating in my increasing mess, which is now making me crazy. (Because my default setting is neat freak.) It’s only 7:00pm; I have no plans and no alcohol in the house. I fought back cravings walking around the city and mentally noted three places along my walk that would sell me just a single pint bottle of beer so I came home and sequestered myself. I started on a weekend. This is my third consecutive Saturday dry. It will get easier, right?

day 13

I wrote this to a couple of friends this morning: if crankiness could kill, I’d be six feet under.

I’m not entirely sure what my problem is and why every last little thing in my world heartily pisses me off, but it does. I briefly considered not posting today at all, thinking nobody wants to read my cranky dreck, then thought well, according to my blog statistics, only a handful of people are likely to read it and anyway, where else can I be honest, if not my anonymous blog, adrift in the ocean of the internet?

My therapy appointment yesterday went well, as they usually do. Then I came home, “relaxed” on the couch with the SO, and harumphed my way through a patch of cravings. The SO made me absolutely batshit crazy last night. My increasing intolerance of everything around me has included him. I expressed an opinion — on personal litigation of all things — and it turned into this drawn out debate that covered all sorts of topics and minutiae. At one point, I said, “I’d like to just say I have an opinion, hear your disagreement, and not debate it until the end of time. There is a game on TV that I wanted to watch, and I’d rather do that than argue this topic with you — our academic disagreement changes nothing about the world anyway.” He was fine with that, but he was in one of his sarcastic moods and as he sat on my couch with his vodka and lemonade, making snappy rejoinders at everything I said, or poking fun at this, that and the other, I briefly fantasized about burying him in the garden so I could have some peace and quiet and watch sports. I had visions of my father thirty years ago, “Be quiet and let me watch the goddamn GAME!”

Ah, what a weird, funny little world I have, where I’m trying to watch sports and the large, muscular man next to me won’t stop chattering.

I wonder if in part, this crankiness is similar to the fits of rage I felt when I quit smoking some years ago. When I quit, there was the neuro-chemistry that changed as my brain began to adjust to a life without nicotine and that brought some mood swings and general ire, but I also learned that I hadn’t ever had to properly cope with annoyances and things that made me angry. Instead of dealing with it, I’d stomped off, inhaled some poison until I calmed down, and come back to the world. I never really addressed anything. If I’d been steadily working through a six pack of beer or a bottle of wine last night, I probably would’ve tuned the boyfriend out, at least a little bit, enjoyed my buzz and enjoyed the game, and listened to him just enough to nod or insert a remark at the right place instead of actually engaging with what was going on around me. It seems that when I remove my protective cushion of numbness, there’s a whole lot of friction to me right now.

But tomorrow marks two weeks of being dry and healthy and crankiness notwithstanding, there have been more better days than worse.

day 12

I went to a sporting event last night, with one of my favorite girlfriends. I’d asked her if she wanted to do that before I’d really committed to 30 days, and then I was committed to 30 days by the time I bought tickets for the two of us. Walking into the stadium, we decided to first look into getting some greasy, salty food, then beer for her. She asked if I was still doing the abstinence thing, as I’d told her last weekend at the opening of her art exhibit that I was staying dry. I answered in the affirmative, though I wanted to say, “Nah. I had over a week, I feel good and cleansed.” It was so freaking difficult to wander through the stadium concourse and talk myself out of getting a beer. Sporting events are not what they were in my youth with only Miller Lite or some other insipid crap. No, no. There’s a nice variety of imports and microbrews. Had it all been the Budweiser scene, I might not have thought twice about whether I wanted one. When we got to our seats, it was easier and better. After some of the game had transpired, I didn’t even care that I didn’t have beer.

My girlfriend only had two beers all evening. We chatted about my endeavors on the way home, and I admitted there were moments that were really fucking difficult and she said, “I think it would be for anyone.” And she confessed that she thinks she needs to do 30 days too, and she’s afraid that she can’t do it, and being afraid that she can’t, she knows that means she probably really should do it, and knowing that she probably can’t, she also doesn’t want to try (and fail). It was an interesting conversation. I don’t know if she’s “normal” in regards to drinking or has her own issues with it like I do with my drinking, but it was reassuring to hear her opinion that anyone who drinks socially would struggle to go a month dry.

Today is a blah day. I didn’t sleep well, having gone to bed late after riding around on public transit for what seemed like hours, then walking two miles home. The train that comes in closest to my house wasn’t going to depart for another 30 minutes after I arrived at the station, so I took another train, departing right away, that got me into an adjacent neighborhood only to have to walk the dark streets alone at night. As I passed my regular station on my way home, the “late” train that I didn’t want to take pulled in.

The day is also blah because the SO texted to ask after me and to inquire if he could spend the night. I waffled, because I haven’t had time to do any of my work this week. I’m an artist, as is he — we exhibit and occasionally sell and all that shit. I remarked upon being blah and he asked what was going on and I said, “I feel stupid and worthless and ugly and very what-is-the-point about most things.” He responded with “the symptoms of depression” and began inquiring about whether I’d found a psychiatrist and should my meds be adjusted to complement my therapy and so on and so forth. His ex-wife is a sufferer of severe depression so he’s no stranger to being involved with it from the outside, but you know… I didn’t really feel depressed until he said that and now I feel like shit and would dearly like for him to fuck off. Many, many years ago, I was hospitalized for depression, a handful of times. The psychiatrists then spoke as though I’d always be in and out of institutions and I never really recovered from feeling like a bug under a magnifying glass, there for the scrutiny of others, existing for them to study and “repair.” His probing feels like prying and I don’t want to talk about it with him. At all. Plus, I feel like there’s a certain arrogance in his advising me on things. It’d be like me advising him on how to take care of his penis. I’ve had experience with his penis, it plays a certain role in my life, but I don’t have a penis, so I can’t really know what that’s like. (Though I wish I did know what it was like to pee standing up in the woods, because I really, really envy that ability.)

I don’t want people telling me to go back to a psychiatrist or have my medication adjusted or anything. I want them all to fuck off. For one thing, I don’t like being that stereotype — woman, late 30s, depressed, drinking problem. How prosaic. Another thing is that I don’t really like living life enshrouded in a filmy haze of quasi-numbness, delivered daily in pill form. It sucks. And it plain old pisses me off. I work out. I eat leafy greans; I drink almond milk. I’m not drinking alcohol. I haven’t done drugs in years. My lifestyle habits are so much healthier than most people I know, so where do they, psychiatrists included, get off telling me what I have to do to be healthy?

All the same, I will call the psychiatrist my psychologist recommended and see about scheduling a consultation, even though I am sure this psychiatrist is a useless asshole like so many others. I’ll do it simply because the filmy haze is certainly better than planning the end of my days. But it still pisses me off.

day 11

Last night was one of those nights… I was in bed before 10pm and asleep before 10:30pm. This isn’t my norm, though I have increasingly abandoned my natural night owl tendencies and forced myself into being a morning person. I didn’t come easily or naturally to me but I noticed some years ago that mornings are the most optimistic time for me. They’re also the quietest time, which this introvert always appreciated — it’s just that if I saw 6am, it was because I was finishing my night, not starting my day.

So I’ve rewired myself into more or less a morning person and as I’ve gotten older, one thing I noticed was that I’m unable to sleep in like I could as a youngster. It’s a rare day that I sleep past 7am, and most days I’m up before that. That meant, those nights that I drank a lot, either drinking late, or drinking enough to destroy my sleep made for really, really bad mornings.

Anyway, it’s not that anything was wrong last night, or that I needed to just go to bed and end the day in order to remain sober. I was simply bored, apathetic, and felt like being in warm pajamas, reading. We’re getting our first run of chilly nights here and my bed was singing to me like a siren. So off to bed I went. I was up at 5:30am, what with having gone to bed so early, and I realized this morning how much more clearheaded I feel. I can’t remember when I was last in the double digits of completely sober, dry days. It’s been done in the past — I used to sporadically go 30 days as a sort of “push the reset button” but it’s been years since I did that.

I really suspect this 30 is different. I’m committed, once the 30 is completed, to never being soggy again. No more opening the wine bottle as I cook dinner and getting looped by 8pm. In fact, if I’m unable to maintain my grip on being not soggy after the end of this 30, I’ll probably sign myself up for Belle’s 100 Day Challenge, and then see about sobriety from there. Wherever I end up in a year’s time, I am discovering that sober is a much, much more enjoyable way to go through life. I feel so much better these days and I look better, too. It’s  like a couple years have been trimmed off my appearance.