Happy New Year!

I have done the same thing every New Year’s Eve since 1996: family time at the ski hill.

Well, not exactly the same.

When our boys were little we would set the clocks ahead so they *thought* they were staying up until midnight. Once they were in bed, the real party started.

When I quit drinking I had a lot of concerns about our ski weekends – how on earth would I manage? Apres ski drinks, happy hour cocktails, wine with meals and drinks in the hot tub. The first year seemed strange but it got easier and easier. Now I don’t miss alcohol anymore, I am too busy living my life!

I ski and snowshoe, or snuggle indoors to read and write. I enjoy cooking for family and guests, do crafts, play with the grandkids, watch movies and play board games. I feel great in the morning and am always the first one up. I start my day with coffee in the hot tub, marvelling at the beauty of this world as snow falls on the mountains before me.

Snow Labyrinth in Canada
Making a meditation labyrinth in the snow (Alberta, Canada)

Last week I snowshoed into the woods and tried something new, creating a meditation labyrinth in the snow! It was tricky but the results are beautiful. I posted pictures to our community group at the ski hill so others could find it and give it a try.

I never thought I would be so content or feel fulfilled by these simple things, but being alcohol free has given me the opportunity to settle into myself and relax. It’s a really lovely way to live!

All the best to everyone. Happy New Year and may you find peace and joy in the year ahead.

Thinking of quitting drinking for the new year? Here are some of my top posts to help you get started:

https://unpickledblog.com/2014/06/08/how-i-knew-it-was-time-to-quit-drinking/

https://unpickledblog.com/2017/11/23/sos-3-holiday-pep-talks/

https://unpickledblog.com/2017/11/15/then-and-now/

https://unpickledblog.com/2016/01/27/up-and-down-the-empathy-spectrum/

20 comments

  1. Jean, first, thank you so much for the work that you’ve done here and on the bubble hour. Your story is so inspirational, and the people you have on have really encouraged me and I’m sure others on the sobriety journey. I am 53 years old and have been trying to quit drinking for over 20 years. I’ve had several good long runs at sobriety, once over 9 months, but have fallen victim to what so many of your guests have said: “I’ve got this, I can moderate now“. I cannot. A couple of years ago, I was really inspired by Kate B and her sober journalist blog that launched me into researching, listening, and learning from others. One thing Kate said on the bubble hour is so true: I cannot do this alone any longer. Quiet sobriety doesn’t work, at least for me. I’m so ashamed, but when I finally beat this, I’m going to evangelize about the evils of alcohol until the day I die. I look forward to a long healthy alcohol free life. If you have suggestions on a good next step, I would be forever grateful.

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    • Good morning. It sounds like you are at the point of believing that zero alcohol is better and easier than moderation (I agree) and have released your old identity as a drinker. This is a solid starting point and truly the beginning of freedom, in my opinion. Have you engaged in any type of a support community previously? If not, consider this as the first piece to add to your newly reinforced patchwork. It could be meetings, online groups, or a recovery coach. Anything that connects you to others who are also going through the same thing – living alcohol free. If therapy is available to you, it’s another excellent tool to help uncover why we needed to drink (so that we can heal and change our thinking and behaviours, making it easier to carry on without alcohol). Write about it. Talk about it. Live your recovery fully. This is an exciting time! Please let go of shame, it won’t serve you. The addicted brain leverages shame to keep us enmeshed with alcohol. Be free and proud. Be empowered.

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      • Jean, thank you for your reply, I’m not sure with all you do how you found time to respond so quickly! You’ve given me a lot to think about in the makings of a great plan. I want alcohol out of my life for good, and I hope to be able to share my story soon. The details of the 20 year journey are harrowing, frightening, and, unfortunately, predictable. May God richly bless you for the amazing work you do.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Jean,

    Your blog is so special and I’m so glad it’s here! I’m really struggling emotionally today. I have a history of benzodiazepine addiction/abuse and although I’ve been off of those meds for three years now (yay!), this experience changed my relationship with alcohol. I’ve really leaned into meditation and cognitive behavioral techniques learned in therapy, but I had a slip recently and feel so let down by myself. I went to dinner with a friend from the “old days” when I was still on the pills and drank heavily and didn’t have the courage to say that I’ve pulled back from drinking. I’m pretty distraught by this stumble and feel very lacking in character. How did you talk to people in your life about changes that you made? If you stumbled in your recovery, how did you get back up again and strengthen resolve? This question is certainly open to anyone here he would like to offer any advice. Thank you!

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    • I’m sorry this happened and you’re feeling down about it. It sounds like it was an isolated event and you haven’t continued to drink, correct? Then all you can do is put it behind you after examining the incident thoroughly for lessons. What could you have done differently? In my experience, it starts with the invitation. The moment a boozy friend asks you for dinner (or drinks or to a party or some other event that’s bound to get sticky), that’s the first chance to say, “I don’t drink alcohol anymore. Would you rather meet for coffee instead?” The invitation is the chance to set boundaries and choose what situations you put yourself into.

      Your slip is not a reflection in your character! It’s a reflection on the power of addiction. It’s a reminder that alcohol looks for every opportunity to get its hooks back in.

      Some people find that rolling their sober days back to zero at this point is helpful because they are very motivated by the number count and never want to lose sober days again. Other people say, no – I’m not going all the way back to the start. I have X-1 sober days and I will still celebrate the day I changed my life forever in spite of this isolated incident. Think about which feels right for you. (Be careful, the addicted voice in your head is probably pretty active right now and will be trying to chirp in and influence you.)

      Finally, don’t let this incident make you feel like giving up. You drank. It’s a big deal but it’s not bigger than your sobriety. There’s a balance between over reacting to a slip/relapse and under-reacting. Too far in either direction isn’t helpful. Addiction leverages extreme thinking like “I’m terrible” and “it’s no big deal”. Personally I’ve had both of these thoughts within minutes of one another, a game of mental ping pong. “I’m the worst” and “oh well, might as well keep doing it”. That’s fodder for trouble. Try and land in the middle: it was bad, it happened, do things differently so it doesn’t happen again.

      I hope this helps. I feel for you and am sending you peace and love as you pick yourself up and carry on.

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  3. Jean thank you for always checking in. I can say with so much pride and joy that it has been now 3 WHOLE years since I put the bottle down. Never thought I’d EVER be able to say that but here I am, loving it (the hard parts suck but are way more manageable now). It’s still an everyday choice, it will have to be forever, and I’m so happy to finally feel and own the fact that I am a non-drinker.

    Onward!

    Judy

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  4. I first read your blog during my first attempt at sobriety a few years back. Now, 10 months in to my third, and God-willing last attempt, I discovered it again and remembered how much I enjoyed your writer’s voice. I look forward to diving in and reading what I’ve missed since then.

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  5. My name is Marques. My sobriety date is November 26, 2001. I live in San Francisco. I would love to send you a copy of my first 2 books that I had published. My first book focuses on how I got sober at 22 and my second book focuses on dual diagnosis. Is it possible for me to mail these to you?

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  6. Happy New Year, Jean 🙂 I’ve just discovered your blog and am really enjoying what I’ve read so far. You’ve had such success with getting and staying sober, it’s wonderful. I’ve been quitting drinking periodically for YEARS and have always ended up going back to drinking. I’ve never been an everyday drinker, I’m much more spontaneous and unpredictable in my habits. I can be fine and have just a couple of drinks one night, then a couple of days later drink an entire bottle with friends and embarrass myself terribly (or worse, though I won’t go into details!)
    Well, I’ve realised that one thing I haven’t done yet is write a regular blog to keep myself on track, so that’s what I started doing yesterday. It’s great to have blogs like yours as inspiration, not only to remind me that I’m not alone, but to see that long-term sobriety is absolutely possible! Here’s to a wonderful 2020 for you and your family.
    Betty x

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Aloha Jean, I have wanted to write to you for.a while. Happy 2020 from Hawaii! You are truly an angel and so many people, including me, appreciate all that you do on the Unpickled Blog and the Bubble Hour! Both have been a tremendous help to me. I am 152 days alcohol free and made it through the holidays! I plan on buying your Holiday Survival guide to use for the future, I am a bit late for this year, but no worries since your advice is timeless. I wish you all the best for 2020!! Thank you, thank you, thank you – and Mahalo too! 🙂

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  8. I got tears in my eyes picturing you making your labyrinth in the snow. (that design is no easy task). It must’ve been incredibly meditative in the silent snowy mountains with the crunch crunch of your crafty foot steps. Nice contrast to the sunny sand and seaweed as Kathy explained the labyrinth mediation with the sounds of waves in the background. Thank you for all of your encouragement to each of us seeking sobriety and the joy it brings.

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