April 27, 2013

The Bond With My Dad

I went to pick up my dad from the airport today after he has spent two months visiting the family in our homeland on the other side of the ocean. I got a huge welcome hug, it was nice! We walked over to my car and he threw his luggage in the trunk. Then he pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Do you want to try some Polish cigarettes? - he asked. I am thinking not really...  but before I got a chance to answer he says - Come on, these are really good! - and he hands me a cigarette. And I put it to my lips and he lights it!

What? What the heck just happened!? I mean I smoke, here and there, mostly just part-time because I just don't have the time and the kids are always around and I don't like to smoke around them. Oh and yes it is bad for me! (ok, ok, I know!)
But there we were, standing by the car, smoking, like we were the long lost friends reuniting after many, many years apart or something... I mean how often does daughter - father smoke cigarettes together! Lol! But, good grief, it felt strangely familiar, a bit like the old times when we drank together...

Yes, we used to drink together, but not like I normally drank, we drank like he normally drank. He would pull out the new... something and then tell me all about it, and where it was from, and how it was made and on and on. Then we would sip and smell.... And sip and smell. He did this with anything, wine, beer, cognac - he actually enjoyed the drink itself! I just wanted to drink! But, I enjoyed having this time with him, because we actually didn't get along that well... He never seemed happy with anything that I was doing, and then complained about the things that I wasn't doing but should be! Ugh. But when we were drinking, we just laughed and carried on!

I really looked forward to those times, I felt like it was my only bond with my dad. When I got sober, I remember actually grieving the fact that I was never going to do that with him again! And when I came to visit him, there was this strangeness, that awkward moment... he would greet me and then he didn't know what to do next. He actually didn't drink around me for the first few years, which was nice and considered, yet even more awkward.

So he was chattering and we were smoking and he was telling me all about his trip, and going on and on, like he does, and then he looks straight at me and says - I heard that you celebrated 5 years! I can't  believe it! Congratulations. You are truly amazing!

And wow.

Let me tell you, my dad has never sounded this excited about anything that I have ever done in the past! Yes, truly amazing.

April 24, 2013

Normie Friends

We have recently met two families with kids in our new neighborhood and both of our kids have made new friends. We have made some new friends too, with the parents who are normies! - or at least they appear to be after the first few meetings. - If you have never heard the term normie, I didn't make it up, I swear! But in my circles of sober friends, a normie is a person that is not an alcoholic and/or an addict. 

So all this is very awesome, I feel as excited as my kids do! But it also feels a bit scary. Not enough that getting to know new people can be challenging but I haven't even had any normie friends except for my coworkers, since I go sober, actually, probably few years before then! And being in the new neighborhood I still feel like the new kid on the block. LOL!

Last weekend was the 3rd time that all the kids were paying together outside. As I was checking on them periodically, I noticed almost right away, that one dad just sipped on his beer all day long while he worked on his mountain bikes in the garage. - I wondered: How many has he had so far? Doesn't he get drunk at some point? How can he be looking after the kids if he is drinking? - my mind started racing, but wait... He's a normie, he can probably sip on that beer for hours! LOL! And true enough, he did! Ha! I don't know how they do that? Just sipping, all day? I know I would be trashed in a matter of hours. This is how I know I am better off sober!
Then the other day, one of the moms told me how her and her husband like to sleep in on Sundays cause you know, they put-one-on Sat nights - that's their night to let loose, she explained. I felt jealous for a second... Then sort of fearful, like she probably won't like me when I tell her that I don't drink! Ahh my thoughts were all over, like back in the high school years: will they like me? will I be popular? what do I tell them? do I tell them? Oh, I just want to fit in! Well... I don't have to tell her until I need to tell her, so that might be... never! And I would rather tell her and risk her not "liking" me, than not tell her and risk my sobriety.

It is amazing that alcohol no longer defines me, but my alcoholism is in the forefront of my mind - it has to be if I want to stay sober. At the same time I have to remember that for the normies it is different, they can take it or leave it, they don't wonder if others drink or not! And they probably don't care that some people do or don't. They may make their own judgements sometimes... But that is not my problem. What others think of me is none of my business!

So all is good! One of the great things that I have learned in sobriety is that I don't have to say or explain why I don't drink until I feel that my sobriety maybe in danger or I feel compelled to share that information with other people who may benefit in some way. I do know that when the time comes I will have no problem saying - I don't drink - and I have to if I want to stay sober!

April 22, 2013

We Danced Sober, and I am OK

So my husband and I went to the AA Spring Fling dance and truly had a blast. It was absolutely amazing to see all these sober people dancing their butts off! I felt so grateful. So much fun and sober, something I used to think that was undeniably impossible. But I tell you, sober fun is even more awesome; I think the excitement seem to be heightened because it is all natural! LOL! And the fact that you can remember the entire night is a definite plus!

Of course I can't say I wasn't nervous before we got there; my mind was going nuts with insecurities just like it used to in the drinking days. Except those days I had a few drinks to calm it all down! Isn't it amazing what alcohol used to do for me? Couple of glasses of wine and I looked better - definitely slimmer, my clothes fit better, make-up was perfect and attitude of confidence beaming from ear to ear! HA!

Well, what is a girl got to do without her "trusty" courage in the bottle? Tough... But well, if I want to be happy and have a good time I have to drop all that shit on my own! Easier said than done for sure. I was brought up surrounded by negativity and often ridiculed for the way I looked. It all still hangs around like a big dark cloud. Ugly. Fat. Stupid. Words that I used to live by. UGH. And today, 11 months after my third child and still carrying some of the baby weight... well, let's just say that finding real confidence was a wee bit difficult!

Oh... I think I changed my outfit at least 10 times, each time running to a different mirror in the house. I can't even tell you about the crazy thought process that was going on in my head - it wasn't pretty! My husband looking very perplexed as he lifted his head up from the phone several times... At one point I stopped and asked if he was ready, he said YES. Is this what you're wearing? -I asked looking at his black tee shirt and jeans. YES, he said. You're OK with that? - I asked. YES, I look good in this shirt - He said.

I look good in many "shirts," but I keep asking myself if others will like my shirt, like I am trying to please others, why am I not trying to please me? Why do I let these damn old tapes play in my head, when I know that they are not true! Ugh. Here again acceptance is absolutely necessary - wallowing in my self-pity is completely useless. Letting go of my old beliefs is crucial to my happiness now, and always. I have to accept me for me, just as I am. This is me. I am ok.

I am OK with me.

I love this line from the AA Big Book; I can apply it to anything in my life!
"Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely." - AA Big Book, Chapter 5.

April 19, 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On

I have been reading tons lately, and found some really interesting and supportive information. I also noticed that many people out there are not so keen on the AA program, and that is OK. I wasn't either in the beginning! So, I was reading the reasons why people felt AA couldn’t work for them, and I started questioning if AA was right for me! (What?!) This seemed rather silly since AA has been a part of my life for so many years now, yet my brain entertained the idea…

Here I pondered: well too many rules - yep, yep, well, all those steps to follow - yep, yep. Well, you have to get a sponsor, yep... and all the meetings and 90 & 90 and the books and ... Yep, yep, yep again. And of course I am strong too and I am determined and self-sufficient, yep, yep, and... I am 5 years sober for goodness sake! YEP! That is a long time! Geeez, I should have this ALL figured out! I shouldn't have to do all that work anymore! I think… maybe little less would be better.... hmmm.

Then yesterday morning I get a text- Hi, would you like to share your experience, strength and hope at a meeting tonight? - oh goodness I thought, ummm, well, .... I was going to do less... Dag, but... I was always told you never say no to being of service, (dag another rule!) consequently, I said... Yes.

And so, I go to the meeting, I am a little early, I get many hugs, I see people I haven't seen in a long time and they are still sober! Totally awesome! I share my story, I get few laughs, I get few tears, I even get some tears myself as a woman recalls my first few months in AA – oh how stubborn was I! LOL! I look around the room, people are nodding and relating. A woman shares about when she comes to the rooms she feels like this is the only place that makes sense to her. A man shares about struggling with the springtime weather and wanting to drink, another shares about wanting to drink with her coworkers after a job well done! Another talks about the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stay sober and she is going to keep coming back!

Then a woman shares about not being sure that she is an alcoholic, and not being sure that AA is the right fit for her, sometimes she feels like she cannot relate to any of the stores, but she can always relate to the feelings, the feelings of shame, guilt and loneliness! She then says, "The day I think that I have it all figured out, is the day I need to get my ass back in a  meeting, because it is cunning and baffling!"

Oh man, did that hit home! A light bulb moment! Yep. Yep. This disease wants me to believe I have it all figured out! But don't! I need AA; I am a better person because of the 12 steps. I do not want to go back to that crazy life. And, I have heard too many times by now about people who get complacent, they don't keep doing steps, they don't keep helping others, they don't stay connected and then... BAM! They drink again! Why am I even questioning this?? Uhg. No matter how we stay sober we just need to keep doing what we are doing. Pushing forward! Keep calm and carry on!

So I reflect back to the little paragraph which is at the end of the Step One chapter. This is my reminder that I need to keep diligent!
Who wishes to be rigorously honest and tolerant? Who wants to confess his faults to another and make restitution for harm done? Who cares anything about a Higher Power, let alone meditation and prayer? Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in trying to carry A.A.’s message to the next sufferer? No, the average alcoholic, self-centered in the extreme, doesn’t care for this prospect—unless he has to do these things in order to stay alive himself. - AA 12 Steps And 12 Traditions

April 15, 2013

5 Years Sober

"I am 5 today! Woot woot! So grateful for all the people in my life that made this possible!" - this was my Facebook post this morning. As soon as I hit post, tears started flowing. I am grateful beyond words!

I have been thinking of my last days of drinking... So crazy... I remember the weekend vividly! It was Friday. I just got off work. The sun was shining; spring was in the air! There was noting wrong. I have been sober for a few months again... And seemingly happy. What could possibly go wrong? I walked into a store to get some dinner. I just had the thought - one bottle couldn't hurt now, could it?!  I walked out with a box of wine...

I woke up face down on my kitchen floor. There was a box of wine next me - What day is it? What time is it? Why am I on the floor? Is there any wine left? OMG! What happened? - I reached over to check if there was any wine in the box... There was. There was also another box of wine on the other side of me. I tried to get up. My body hurt. My head felt heavy. I crawled out into the living room to get my phone. There was 20 missed calls. The clock displayed: Monday, April 15, 2008, 7:00 AM.


I still remember exactly how I felt that morning and I don't ever want to feel that way again! This was the day it had finally beat me down. I have come to face the fact that I had no control over what happened to me once I started drinking, no matter the day, good or bad. I was not safe. The fight was over for me. I was done. I was finally willing to do anything to stop this madness. Ugh.

So, here I am 5 years sober. It is totally amazing. There was a time in my life that I couldn't image being sober for a week, let alone five years. There was a time when I truly believed that I was going to die drunk and alone. The fact that I am sober still sometimes doesn't quite fit in my head. I can't believe all those 24 hours have added up to five years!

But I didn't do it alone. The people in the rooms of AA have carried me along my way. They became my friends and my family. They became the security that I always wanted and needed. They showed me the way that countless others have traveled to sobriety. And although my journey was quite treacherous in the beginning, the kept welcoming me back with open arms. They loved me until I could love myself!

So what does five years sober look like? Well the biggest thing that has changed for me this past year is that I was finally able to drop the shame that I felt about being an alcoholic. I used to live this double life; one smilingly normal, and the other totally sober. I worked really hard on making sure that they were separate and that people from one never knew about the other! But recently, I realized that I no longer am concerned with who might know and what they might think of me. I have truly accepted that the world outside may not understand what it is like to be an alcoholic. But for me I know that this is not a morality issue - I have an addiction. I cannot drink safely. I didn't choose to be an alcoholic. AND, I know where I have been and how hard it has been to get here. AND, I am sober now and there is nothing to be ashamed of in that!

SO, if you are new, just hang in. Sobriety is with in reach. It does get easier and the rewards are amazing! One Day At a Time.

p.s. I have realized that I guess it is not a NEW sober life anymore, so I am changing the blog title to just Sober Life - same web address though :)

April 13, 2013

The Evolution of Dance

Did you know that many AA groups have dances?! Yep. Sober dances. Sounds intimidating doesn't it? It did to me. Dancing was always something that was done drunk, or at least with enough of a buzz to have the "confidence" to dance!

I love to dance. Always did. I was a club junkie in my younger days and it always involved lots of drinking too! But sober dancing seemed impossible. Why? I always wondered why something so natural was so hard to do when sober! Were people going to laugh? Was everybody going to stare. Was I going to be able to keep my rhythm? Was I going to look cool?  Lol! Yep, worried about looking cool! Lol! I wonder why I never worried about that when I was drinking. I mean I know alcohol was giving me liquid courage, but it I never questioned my ability to dance drunk! lol! And if it is hard to walk and talk when drunk, I am sure dancing was not so easy either, or pretty. Lol! But yet I did it. Most of the time not so gracefully; falling down, and stumbling but I was always the first to suggest dancing for an outing. I was always the first on the dance floor and the last to leave the club... Well, if I made it that long, without being belligerently drunk and having to be carried out or something. Good times! NOT! 

So the Spring Sober Dance is coming up in few weeks. I am really excited. I can't wait to hang out with some sober folks and boogie the night away! And have some needed fun with my husband! Yep, he likes to dance too! (I am a lucky girl!) I get this awesome feeling from dancing. I get to laugh and have fun. Yep, sober I actually feel more fun! A natural high! Lol! And I don't have a hangover next day and I am not trying to figure out what happened. These are the good times!

P.S. I do think sometimes that maybe we are a bit old... but what the heck, is there an age limit on dancing? I think not! :)

April 9, 2013

The Middle: It Is Safe Here

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. -Thomas Merton

I was thinking the other day about how my life has changed, and how I now strive  to live sort of in the middle... or in balance. I no longer enjoy the extreme highs or lows. I would rather let things be and not intervine if I don't need to. It keeps me sober, one day at a time!
When I was drinking, I lived in the absolute extremes! There was no balance! My motto was -Work hard, and party hard!-  Most of the time, I either loved everything or hated it all. There was no second chances or trying again The more chaotic my insides felt, the more drama I got involved in, and the more I tried to impose my control on everything. I was never, ever satisfied with anything, and if I was, it was very temporary. I was never actually happy with just the way things were, there was always more that I could do. Nothing was just good enough.

As we redouble our efforts at control, and continue to fails our suffering becomes acute and constant. We have not once sought to be one in the family, to be a friend among friends, to be a worker among workers, to be a useful member of society. Always we tried to struggle to the top of the heap, or to hide underneath it! - AA 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, Step 4, pg. 53.

This quote is so true for me, I have never just tried to be a useful member of society, I was always trying to get to the top or hide underneath! I was always trying to control something or someone. But when I was learning how to stay sober, I realized that all that drama made it really hard to live and be happy, and stay sober at the same time. It just become too much work to constantly have to control everything around me. I had to change it. I had to find happiness; I didn't get sober to be miserable after all!

My life now doesn't have huge highs or lows anymore, I sort of coast in the middle. This is a place where I feel comfortable and relaxed, and I have no need to control anything. Here are the few things I do to help me stay in the middle:

I practice letting go.
I practice Living in Now  
I don't bother with things that I have
no control over.
I approach each day with no expectations.
I am grateful for everything I have today.
I am OK in the middle.

April 5, 2013

Thank you Roger Ebert!

I saw Roger Ebert's blog entry being shared today on several blogs I follow and can't help but want to share it also. I didn't know he was an alcoholic, I only knew of his public life as a movie critic, but this is so well written and so inspiring, it got me a bit teary eyed and so very grateful at the same time. 34 years sober! RIP Roger. Thank you for this amazing post!

My Name is Roger, and I'm an alcoholic
By Roger Ebert on August 25, 2009 7:37 AM

In August 1979, I took my last drink. It was about four o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, the hot sun streaming through the windows of my little carriage house on Dickens. I put a glass of scotch and soda down on the living room table, went to bed, and pulled the blankets over my head. I couldn't take it any more. Continue reading....

April 4, 2013

AA Step Eight - Made a List

AA Step Eight - Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

OMG, this has been the Step which had become my blocker to growth for sure! The sheer thought of making a list of people I have harmed, AND become willing to make amends to them ALL, has kept me awake for many nights; the memories are just too much to bare! Although in this step you do not actually make the amends, (amends are made in Step 9), and you do have to be willing to revisit the past. I am so overwhelmed and I am so fearful to go through these emotions again, and to look at the terrible way I have treated people in my life, some who I actually cared for very much. But in the midst of my alcoholic disease, self-pity and self-centeredness blocked me from sharing my love with them; I just used them to fill up my own ego, so that I could hide all my own insecurities underneath it. Horrible. Yes my ego is still saying, nah, wasn't that bad, it was them anyway! Well, maybe... some... but I did plenty of damage too! It is time to clean my side of the street. No matter how hard this maybe, I know that there is a light at the end of this tunnel! 

Here are some pieces from Step 8 that resonate with me.
This is a very large order. It is a task which we may perform with increasing sill, but never really finish. Learning how to live in the greatest peace, partnership, and brotherhood with all men and women, of whatever description, is a moving and fascinating adventure. – 12&12, pg. 77.
This reopening of emotional wounds, some old, some perhaps forgotten, and some still painfully festering, will at first look like a purposeless and pointless piece of surgery. But if a willing start is made, then the great adventure of doing this will so quickly reveal themselves that the pain will be lessened as one obstacle after another melts away.  – 12&12, pg. 77.
"If we haven't the will to do this, we ask until it comes."
Calm, thoughtful reflection upon personal relations can deepen our insight. We can go far beyond those things which were superficially wrong with us, to see those flaws which were basic, flaws which sometimes were responsible for the whole pattern of our lives. – 12&12, pg. 80.
Whenever our pencil falters, we can fortify and cheer ourselves by remembering what A.A. experience in this Step has meant to others. It is the beginning of the end of isolation from our fellows and from God. - 12&12, pg. 82.
The AA Step 8 can be found on page 77 in the AA 12 Steps and 12 Traditions.

April 2, 2013

Sober Bits & Pieces

Many times, when I comment on another blog, I realize that I am really reminding myself of the things that are important for my sobriety. Here are a few bits and pieces:
- You are right were you are supposed to be, even if you don't believe it. This is part of growth, it doesn't feel good, it maybe treacherous, it might make you feel uncomfortable and like you are riding a roller coaster! It is very ok to have these feelings. It is ok to struggle sometimes.
- This is the easier, softer way. I’ve tried it all, moderation for me was just white knuckling and the mental obsession was even crazier. I don’t have to do that anymore. I don’t have to think it and over think it to the point of neurosis. Giving up the fight opened the doors to freedom for me.
- My feelings change so fast sometimes, just postponing the though for a bit helps, by tomorrow I know I will feel different. But it took me a while to learn that, I had almost like a knee jerk reaction when I though about drinking, I thought it and as fast as I did I was drinking. Ugh. People say you can't get struck drunk, but it sure felt like it! I would walk into a store to get lunch and walk out with a bottle of wine! So I had to learn how to think the whole moment thru... Drunk and in a bliss tonight, and hating me and the world tomorrow, hmmmm the choice suddenly becomes clearer!

- This for me maybe in part due to my own insecurities. I know that when I am ok with me, I have no need for the "character assassinations" on others. When I am in acceptance that everything and everyone is exactly as they are supposed to be, I have no need to compare myself to others and put them down so that I can feel above them. Unfortunately this all seems to stem from how I view myself and how I think the world views me. Fortunately I can work on that view by practicing self love and self acceptance.
- I've been sober few years now and just the other day I had that "I miss it" feeling! But the great thing about sobriety is that you can make new memories... You can create new ways to spend your nights... nights that you will remember and cherish forever!
- Put down the hammer and stop nailing yourself - I cough this little gem from a comment that Paul left on another blog. It has been on my mind for days, it has just resonated so deeply with in me. Yes, how long am I going to continue beating myself up for the past? How many nails am going to beat into me? There is absolutely no need for this anymore.