If you are a regular listener to The Bubble Hour podcast, you will have heard me speak many times about the beautiful rituals and routines that support my sobriety: grinding good coffee beans, steaming milk to the perfect froth, using beautiful mugs. You’ll have heard how “Dibbs” ice cream nuggets became my pacifier in early sobriety. You’ll know I order O’Douls in a wineglass at restaurants, and sip tonic water with a dash of grapefruit juice at parties.
If you’ve ever ridden in my car or peeked into my (enormous, iphone-swallowing, key-vaporizing) purse, you’ll recognize the smattering of gold-foil balls as the remains of Ferraro Roche chocolates. I buy them in sleeves of three, saving the last one for The Mr. as an act of self-control. The cleaners at our office could tweet scandalous photos of the empty 100-calorie packs of chocolate covered pretzels they remove from my garbage can each week (they don’t, I hope). Occassionally, when I think maybe the chocolate thing has gone too far, I’ll buy a bag of oranges and convince myself that they are yummy treats, too.
Yes friends, I owe my sobriety to coffee, tea with one milk and two sugars, ice cream, chocolate, fizzie drinks, and citrus fruit. For 3 years and 3 months this perfect magic formula has kept me strong and sober.
I have everything figured out, thank you very much. Don’t drink and work on the shit. No problem. Tickety boo. I even called a counselor to help me start working on the super-tricky shit that I can’t seem to get past on my own. Yep. I am goooood at recovery.
Until….what is this new agonizing pain?
Excuse me? An ulcer? Ohhh-kay. There’s a pill for that, right?
A what? A special diet? A special diet that requires no coffee, caffeinated tea, dairy, chocolate, carbonated beverages, or citrus? You’re kidding, right? RIGHT? You’re KIDDING, RIGHT??!
Oh My Lanta. Kill me now.
As the Evangelical preachers say “New level, new devil”. Sometimes when we get strong and become better people, the “devil” will come at us with a vengeance to tempt us back to failure and despair.
That’s how this feels, but I know it isn’t the case. I am not happy, mind you. I feel right rotten and all of my favourite things make me feel even worse. But you know what? I can handle it.
I think this is a little nudge from above, telling me it is time to drop the crutches. An opportunity to become (even) stronger, not an evil curse.
Compared to the heroics involved in setting down the wine glass bottle box, this should be a cinch. I bought a bamboo whisk for my green tea and two peacock mugs from Pier 1. You just friggin watch me drink my tea by the campfire this summer.
We can do hard things. Right?
Every January I see a huge spike in traffic on this blog as the new year gets people thinking about change. Yes, that’s right – if you have searched “quit drinking” and found this blog, you are not alone. I want you to meet the most amazing group of people: the readers of UnPickled.
I’m asking the readers of this blog to comment below and “tell us how you did it”. Most of us come to the idea of sobriety believing that we are different from other people with alcohol problems. Often the stigma of alcohol addiction has us thinking that alcoholics are bums in the park, not soccer moms and business executives and school teachers.
Most especially, people seem curious to know if it is possible to quit drinking without joining a program or going to detox. The answer is yes, many can self-manage recovery successfully – especially those have recognized the need to change before life becomes unmanageable (sometimes called a “high bottom”) and who have lots of personal support, are surrounded by healthy relationships, and who haven’t experienced major trauma (not my opinion, I heard that on the Dr. Drew podcast).
The coming week will be a true test of my sobriety
The coming week will be a true test of my resolve
The coming week will be a true test of my character
The coming week will be a true test of my SPIRIT.
My husband and I have been invited to a destination wedding at an all-inclusive beach resort. As I type this, the November wind is howling outside my window with small blasts of snow ticking the glass. What sane Canuck wouldn’t be thrilled to escape for a week of sunshine?
In fact, a quiet week on the beach sounds completely heavenly but the days ahead will be anything but quiet. There are 50-some guests attending this event, all of us departing on the same flight from Calgary. Many in this group, my husband included, attend Grey Cup together each year in full “party-mode”.
Get the picture? Yah, that noisy section on the plane that all the other passengers are tired of by the end of the flight, praying they are headed to a different resort.
This is a group who is used to having a blast together and I’m not sure where I fit. I don’t want to be the wet rag. I don’t want to give recovery a bad name by being a fun-sucker. And I don’t want to miss out on fun by having an outsider mindset before we even leave home.
SO…. I am giving my head a good “Etch-a-Sketch” style shake and clearing out the negativity. Expectations (good or bad) result in resentment. Resentment feeds the addictive mindset. Let it go…..Breathe…..
There has been a noticeable spike in traffic on UnPickled lately and I wonder if it has anything to do with the upcoming holiday season. (Am I right? New readers, are you searching for answers as you dread another round of family gatherings with too much togetherness, drama, resentments, turkey, and BOOZE. Or perhaps, as New Year looms on the horizon, you are mustering the courage to make THIS the year you stick to your resolution and quit drinking? Am I right? I love being right! If that’s you please comment in the affirmative and make my day.)
Vacations, holidays, hosting 34 relatives for Christmas dinner, sleeping on your mother’s pull-out – whatever it is you dread in the weeks to come. These things can be daunting for anyone in recovery.
Here are my tried-and-true strategies for getting through such times:
- BYOD – Bring Your Own Drinks – Always always always show up with your non-alcoholic beverage of choice in one hand and a little something for the host(ess) in the other (flowers, chocolate, a bottle of wine if that’s something you feel safe handling). Before you know it, your friends will start to keep your favourites on-hand. I am not kidding – this will happen and you might be surprised to see which friends do this for you and which don’t. Take note of those who do – they have your back.
- Plan Your Escape – Bring your own vehicle, if possible, and let anyone who comes with you know that they may have to cab it home if you need to leave early. If someone else does the driving, advise them that you should need to leave early, you’ll call a taxi. Do not put yourself into situations where you can’t control your exit. This is always made easier if you do the next step, too:
- Enlist a Buddy – At first it is tempting to keep your sobriety to yourself but it is sooo much easier with the encouragement of a trusted friend. If you’re involved in a program, you may have a sponsor as close as your phone. Even so, you may often find yourself among friends or family feeling unnecessarily alone in your efforts. I will never forget the actions of my confidant very early in my sobriety. I was having dinner with a group of girls and the when the waiter came to fill their wine glasses, he also poured into the empty glass in front of me. I almost fainted. Without missing a beat in the story she was telling, my dear friend Cheryl reached across the table, lifted my glass and poured the contents into her own as she carried on with her narrative. She did it so naturally that no one even seemed to notice (or care) – expect for me, of course! I was limp with relief.
- Expect to Have Fun – Browse a few headlines, Google some knock-knock jokes, or scan your friends’ Tweets for a few reminders of their interests and connections. Be ready to join into conversation and if all else fails ask everyone questions about themselves. Everyone loves to talk about themselves and LOVES the person who listens with interest. Learn about the location you are visiting – whether it is a party in a private home, at gala at the local museum, or a vacation in another country. Bone up and be ready to explore and learn. You’ll be sailing smooth before you know it.
- Look Your Best – Put some extra effort into your appearance – over-dress even just to be safe. You may have been under a blanket all week sweating through your first week of detox, reading People Magazines and eating chocolate chips from the bag but no one needs to know that when you step out in public. Head high. Brows waxed, chin plucked. White-strips used and removed. You’re going to rock this, dammit. Even if you only stay for 90 minutes.
- Nab Little Breaks – It’s perfectly fine to step into the coat closet and text your sponsor or search #xa tweets for inspiration. Go into the bathroom and give yourself the soul-stare in the mirror. Use the seasonal candy-cane lotion from Bath and BodyWorks in there while you’re at it – the hosts will be grateful you helped work through their annual supply.
- Practice Some Lines – This sounds super corny but it is helpful: write out some ways to say “no thanks, I’m not drinking” and practice them before the event. Generally, as long as you have a glass in your hand no one will care what is in it. Still, there’s always someone who just insists on getting you something in which case you can say, “Ohhhh, I’ll have some of that delicious-looking San Pelligrino that someone [YOU] brought. Yum! Thank you!!”. If you are really pressed, just accept the drink offered and quietly set it aside and calmy WALK THE EFF AWAY. If this leaves you overly shaky, refer to items 6, 3, or 2.
So those are some maneuvers that have gotten me through countless events these past 2 ½ years, and I intent to adapt them for the resort week ahead. What have I missed? What can you add? Let’s get through this holiday season together!