Some Shame Never Goes Away

It’s been a while since I posted, but overall things have been good.  I had a wonderful summer and was able to travel to many nice places, most recently Maine with my family.  While I was there, the topic of my blog came up, and although I casually mentioned that I created a blog to my mom, I never told her the name of it.  When I shared the name of it, and explained it was because people used to refer to me as Drunk Lisa in college she was extremely upset.

I knew this would be the case, hence why I never told her about it.  I now know that Drunk Lisa was a past version of myself that I have moved on from, but I’m still ashamed that I acted in a way that people called me that for such a long time.  I am also ashamed that even though my mom understands that alcohol is a disease, she still seems to think that there is something she could have done to prevent me from becoming an alcoholic.

I know this is not the case, and all I can do now is be my best self by staying sober.  Even though I’ve been sober for 4 years, there are still things that I’m very ashamed of doing during my active addiction.  These reminders will never go away, but they’re actually a great way to stay sober as they remind me what I can turn into if I do drink again.

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Dating in Sobriety

Dating is hard enough in today’s world where we usually meet people online, and throw in the fact that you’re sober-and it really tends to limit your connections.  I’d personally prefer not to meet someone online, but since I’m 35 and live in a city where I don’t know many people, I’ve fallen into the online dating scene.

First off, online dating is a commitment in itself.  I’ve used Tinder, Bumble, and Match.com and have had little success with any of them.  I’ve also used a matchmaker that didn’t amount to any quality dates.  Online dating requires you to create a profile that you think will attract people who you hope you will also be attracted to.  If you do like someone and make the effort to reach out, they don’t necessarily answer your message.  If someone does respond, there’s usually an annoying back an forth of questions about your job, background, and what you enjoy to do in your free time.  If you think you’d like to meet, you eventually will set up a date.

*I should also mention, there’s an occasional dick pic thrown into the mix.   These are always amazing, because I try to figure out what I may have said that makes a guy think I would like to see his penis.  Does a simple Hi, how are you?  warrant a penis picture as a response?  Maybe it does, who am I to judge?  All I can say is that I say hi how are you a to real life men many times a day and have yet to have a man pull out his penis in response.  Although with Trump as president that may be in our future.

I digress- as a sober woman, the most difficult part of online dating is when to reveal the fact that I don’t drink.  I’ve included it in some profiles, and not in others, but even when I do include that I don’t drink-people don’t necessarily read the profile.  Let’s face it, people are scared of alcoholics.  It’s not their fault, I used to be the same way.  Society has labeled alcoholics as bad people, so unfortunately as soon as you throw that into the mix many peoples’ view of you will change in a split second.  Now that I’m comfortable in my sobriety, it’s actually kind of funny to watch this transition from a guy being totally comfortable to shocked, dismayed, and confused.  I’ve now realized that if I’m having a bad date, it’s the best way to get out of it.  Just dropping the I’m an alcoholic bomb on someone will make a conversation awkward, but it’s also a great way to end a date if you’re with a person who doesn’t understand alcoholism.  With certain people, it’s the equivalent of telling them you have herpes.  It’s a life long problem that’s never going to go away.  Herpes-the gift that keeps on giving.

Enough with the STD talk, I was on a date the other night with a guy who was perfectly nice.  When I got there, he had already ordered a drink and I just got a club soda with lime.  We had a good conversation and then the waiter asked if he wanted another when we were ordering food, and he said yes, and when I said I was good with my club soda he made a comment about me not drinking.  I just kind of laughed and the date continued.  Eventually we got into the topic of drinking and driving and I casually mentioned that I don’t drink anymore and I’m in recovery.  BAM-he didn’t know what to say!  Body language changed, and he went silent, and then he asked the typical questions: You won’t even have a glass of wine to relax? No, I replied I can’t have anything.  I didn’t tell him that for me it actually wouldn’t be one glass of wine, it would be a magnum of wine easily, because that’s how I used to roll.  He then said, well I like to go out and have a good time once in a while, so would it bother you if we were like out and I had a bunch of drinks and then smelled of alcohol?  I told him that clearly I can’t hang out with someone who gets wasted all the time, but I have plenty of friends and family who do enjoy drinking and having a good time.  Then, he added the kicker-well maybe you just haven’t found the right relationship with a person who can support you and say after two glasses of wine, hey that’s enough for now, let’s stop.  Oh, if he only knew….I explained that’s never going to happen, and in my head I was like this is over he doesn’t get it.  I actually thought the date was pretty much done at that point, but he then asked if I wanted to hang out again and started listing things we could do sober.  I said sure because I was thrown off, but I haven’t heard from him since, nor do I want to.

I don’t want this to come across as judgmental on my part, because I myself didn’t understand alcoholism until I went to rehab.  There’s no way I would have been able to date someone in recovery when I was drinking, but I’ve also learned that there are certain people who aren’t phased by the alcoholism bomb, so I guess that’s who I’m hoping I eventually meet.

In the meantime, dating sober has taught me more about myself, and what I’m actually looking for in a partner.  It’s clearly a process that’s not going to be fast, but in the end, I’d rather be happy and alone than miserable with someone who doesn’t understand me.

 

 

Sober at a Wedding

A few weeks ago I attended my cousin’s wedding.  I am from an Irish Catholic family, so weddings always include lots of drinking.  I’ve been to quite a few weddings sober now, but I always make sure I’m in the right head space before I go.  This involves making sure I have an easy exit plan for when I want to leave, as well as just recognizing if I am uncomfortable at any point.

This has become much easier for me over the past four years.   Much of the socialization that takes place at weddings happens at the bar, and the dance floor.   Luckily I love to dance, so I am still able to enjoy myself at weddings.  If I didn’t enjoy dancing, and if my friends and family weren’t dancers, I would hate going to weddings.

Now that I’m comfortable in my sobriety, I actually enjoy watching the interactions of drunk people.  There always comes a point at weddings where I become very aware of the drunk people around me, and I am ready to get the hell out of there.  This usually involves people making out on the dance floor, dirty dancing with someone’s elderly aunt, and broken glasses causing people to slip and fall.

The best advice I can give to someone who is newly sober and planning on attending a wedding is to have a plan, and to bring someone with you who knows your plan and supports you.  If you are in a situation where you have to attend a wedding alone, and aren’t comfortable doing so, politely decline.  If the person who invited you is someone close enough to you that cares about your health, they will understand why you’re not attending.  If you do decide to attend, don’t feel bad about leaving early.  Honestly, no one will notice.  People are more likely to remember the person who gets hammered and falls all over the dance floor, than the person who left after dinner.  Drunk Lisa loved weddings, and always made a scene, and believe me that sticks in peoples’ memory.  I still hear the story of how I smashed my head into the pool table at the after party of my sister’s wedding 7 years later.  I’m now happy not to be that girl.

Four Years of Sobriety

Well, it’s official.  I’ve been sober for four years.  Something I never thought possible four years ago when I was at the lowest point of my life in a psych ward in Florida.  Looking back I can’t even believe that was me, and I’m so happy to say that I’m no longer that same addicted, crazy person.

Although the past four years have been challenging and scary, I honestly can’t believe how much better my life is, and how much more comfortable and confident I am as a person.  I still struggle with my sobriety at times, but it is nothing like it was during my first year of sobriety.  When things are good, I’m thankful for every moment I have in my new found freedom called sobriety, but I also don’t take it for granted.  I know at any point something can arise that may challenge my sobriety.  This is just the reality of living with addiction.

That was probably the hardest thing for me to come to terms with over the past four years.  Although I’m doing well now, my struggle to stay sober will never stop.  My addiction is part of me, and it will always be lurking in the background, waiting to strike when I least expect it.  I will continue to have to be true to myself no matter what, and maintain my sobriety through a recovery community and a healthy lifestyle.  Today this is second nature, but I’ve worked very hard to get here.

Dealing With Stress

Last week was extremely stressful.  I had a very busy week at work, and had to be out of the house and on the road by 5 am 2 days in a row.  I also felt guilty about leaving my new dog-Francois aka Frankie at home for an extended period of time, even though I had a dog walker take him out during the day.  The kicker was when I got home Friday after a long day and there was a note under my door from my neighbor complaining about Frankie’s barking.

I thought Frankie wasn’t barking as much, but apparently that wasn’t the case.  I honestly felt horrible, as I would be very annoyed if I was hearing a dog bark at 6 in the morning.  The difference in how I dealt with this now, as opposed to how Drunk Lisa would have dealt with this situation was not lost on me.  I went to yoga Friday night, which helped take away much of the work stress I was feeling and also helped calm my nerves over my dog’s issues.  I then ran into my neighbor and spoke with him and his girlfriend about the situation.  I told them how sorry I was, and they were very understanding about it since they also have a dog.  I also explained that I was enrolling Frankie in an obedience program, and was also going to purchase a anti-barking collar.

Drunk Lisa would have just been mad, and drank over her annoyance with the work situation, and also the fact that she was unlucky enough to have a dog that barks.  It is so interesting to be able to take a step back from situations now and realize, yes this might be stressful, but it can be dealt with, and hopefully resolved.

I’m still dealing with the stress of Frankie’s barking as the collar I bought is not working, but I’m taking other steps to try to resolve the situation.  I also addressed the work issue with my counterpart and explained to him my issue with not being included on the updates of an account we are both working on.  He understood, and I also spoke candidly with my supervisor about the issue, and she shared my complaint  with her supervisor who is working on resolving the issue.

It’s somewhat freeing to know I did everything I could in both situations instead of just shutting down and feeling sorry for myself and turning to alcohol as an outlet.  I think that’s one of the most gratifying things about recovery-knowing that I’ve done my part to resolve problems, and being able to move on from them.

Vulnerability

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately, and the topic of vulnerability has come up a few times.  It made me really think of my own vulnerability during my active addiction, as well as my vulnerability in recovery.

When we as addicts finally make the decision to seek help for our disease, we are extremely vulnerable.   For people who don’t understand alcoholism, we are deciding to stop using the only thing that has ever made us feel comfortable or normal.  It has become a part of who we are, and we can’t imagine living without it.

For me, admitting I was an alcoholic was admitting that I was uncomfortable in my own skin.  My anxiety was the reason I drank, so before I was diagnosed, I was self medicating with alcohol.  I was untreated for years due to the fact that I didn’t want to admit I was anxious, especially in social situations, because I saw this as a flaw.  Although I was eventually prescribed anxiety medicine about a year before I truly accepted my disease, I took the medicine without seeking therapy, and I continued to drink.

Clearly this was a not the path to wellness.  I also knew that just taking the medication and not drinking was not helping me feel less anxious about everything that was going on in my life.  I wanted to pretend things were fine to everyone in the outside world, even thought that wasn’t the case.

Looking back, I find it funny that I actually thought I was fooling anyone.  I was  ashamed of my drinking, but too scared to be honest with my family and friends about my complete and utter reliance on it.  It is still hard for me to be completely open with some people about the amount I was drinking when I was heaving in my addiction.  Since people who are not alcoholics or addicts don’t understand the reliance a person has on their drug of choice, they’re usually shocked and sometimes disgusted by how much a person drinks or uses when he or she is entrenched in their addiction.

The shamefulness I felt over my alcoholism was what kept me from being honest with myself.  When I first attempted to stop drinking, my obsession with alcohol was still there.  I wanted everyone to think I was fine, so of course, I didn’t admit to anyone or myself how I was really feeling.  Amazingly, I was able to abstain from drinking for three months before I finally gave into my obsession.

This led to over 6 months of on and off drinking, and many bad decisions.  Although going through that was my personal hell, it forced me to understand that I needed to go to rehab, become educated about the disease, and continue to talk to other alcoholics.

Overall the hardest step for me to take in my recovery was to let myself be vulnerable.  This is still tough, but I now force myself to do it in order to stay well.  For those readers who are not alcoholics, I would like to make a simple request-if someone you love has a problem and shares this with you, try your hardest not to judge him or her.  Our society makes it hard enough for addicts to seek help, so if someone feels comfortable enough sharing their person hell with you, just remember that this might be the first time he or she is allowing them-self to be vulnerable.  They’re most likely not looking for advice, they just need a person to listen without judgement.

 

 

Still Figuring it Out

I was at a party last night and had some good conversations with people I had just met.  Often times when I speak with new people, it makes me realize I still don’t know what’s next to come in life, which is somewhat scary, but also exciting.

When I was drinking I always felt like I had to prove something in conversations with people I was just introduced to.  I guess it was part of keeping up the facade of having it all together, when in truth, was not the case.  Now I’m open about still trying to figure things out, and although I feel like this gets mixed reactions, I always find it interesting to hear what people have to say when this comes up in a conversation.

For instance last night I had a conversation with a guy who has been sober for 20+ years and I told him I was looking to meet someone.  He of course had advice for me, which is typical of older men, especially when they find out I’m sober.  He also had advice on my sobriety, which is fine, but I was actually annoyed when I first left the party last night.  Although he was very open about his sobriety, I personally find it unnatural to tell someone I just met everything about my journey to sobriety, and how I got here.  I find that people in AA love to give unsolicited advice, which they think is helpful, but for me is just annoying.  I honestly feel like he was just trying to be a nice guy, so today I’m not as bothered by it as I was last night, but as a sober person I don’t want that to be the only thing that defines me.  I often feel like when I meet another sober person who is in AA, they automatically want to compare their level of sobriety, and then it turns into this conversation about how many meetings you go to, and who your sponsor is etc.

The thing I can best compare it to is when I was unemployed and everyone had advice on what I needed to do to find a new job.  People think they have the answer to everything without really knowing your background, and what you eventually want out of life.  I like my job right now, but I also think I eventually want to live somewhere warmer, so I’m still figuring that out which I’m open and honest about.  I feel like in many ways that makes people uncomfortable, so they automatically get into advice mode.

I have now learned to listen to this advice- and then think of what, if anything, I can apply to my life.  If it annoys me and there’s nothing that I find helpful, that’s fine, but overall at least I’m doing the one thing I never did when I was drinking-acknowledging how it actually makes me feel.

 

Dog Therapy

I adopted a dog yesterday and he has anxiety just like me!  I named him Francois or Frank for short.  He’s awfully sweet, but he’s still getting used to his new home.  I’ve been wanting to adopt a dog for some time now, and I finally took the plunge.  Frank is about 8 years old, and was a stray in the south that was brought up here to find a new home.

I’ve always been a dog person, but I’ve never owned my own.  My family dog, Hopalong Cassidy (Hoppy) was a huge support for me when I returned from rehab.  He was also there when I returned from my shenanigans in Florida.  When I got to my mom’s house from FL, I immediately went outside and gave Hoppy a huge hug.  The comfort he gave me at that moment, was so relieving I cried.  I found out that he also comforted my mom when she was upset about not knowing my whereabouts while I was on my bender.

Right after rehab I was unemployed and attending an out patient treatment program four days a week.  Going for long walks with Hoppy was one of the things that kept me sane.  Hoppy was the last being to see my father alive.  My father passed away while he was at our camp with Hoppy, but it always gave me comfort to think that my dad wasn’t totally alone when he died.

Hoppy became sick himself after I had been sober for about a year.  At that point, I no longer lived with my mom, but I missed him terribly and visited him on a regular basis.   When I was away on a short vacation, he became very sick.  My mom didn’t want to put him down without me being there.  Of course my flight home was cancelled, so I was delayed getting home.  My mom stayed up with him all night while he whined in pain, and called me early the next morning.  She told me to meet her at the vet, as he wasn’t doing well.  I rushed to the vet and met him in the parking lot, while he was still lying in my uncle’s car.  I got in the back seat and held his head telling him it was ok to go, and hugged him.  He passed in my arms while I was holding him, and I’m so glad I was able to say goodbye.

It was very upsetting, but in a way it made me feel like I was also saying goodbye to my father.  I’m so glad I was able to see Hoppy one last time, and I believe that his passing made me even more at peace with my father’s death.

That being said, I’m looking forward to spending time with Frank as I can’t wait to have a new friend to continue my journey with.

 

Ghosts of St. Paddy’s Days Past

As St. Paddy’s day approaches tomorrow, it reminds me of many drunken ones I celebrated in the past.  One that stand out to me in particular is St. Patrick’s Day 2003.

It was my junior year of college, and I lived off campus with 3 of my best friends in a large house where we would throw raging parties on a regular basis.  As I’m sure is the case at any college, St. Paddy’s Day is an excuse to get absolutely wasted especially if you’re of Irish decent, which I proudly am.  My friends and I decided to throw a party which I believe started in the afternoon, but my memory is a little fuzzy, so don’t hold me accountable to when it actually started.

Per usual we had drinks flowing including beer, liquor, and whatever else we could get our hands on.  This was the time before everyone had cell phones, so we still had a landline and an answering machine.  At some point during the party, the phone rang and my roommate picked it up.  It was our good friend Jerry* who lived down the street calling from the police station.  Apparently he had had a few drinks before heading down to our house.  We’d had a bad snow storm earlier that week so the snow banks were the equivalent of small mountains on the side of the road.  Jerry parked in front of our house, and as luck would have it, the cops drove by and noticed his creative parking job, which was literally perpendicular to the street, up the snowbank.  They asked him to move it, and when he was walking back to his car they realized he seemed drunk.  They gave him a sobriety test which he failed, and even thought they didn’t witness him driving the car-it was clear he had just parked it since the engine was still warm.  They arrested him and took him down to the station.

All of this took place right outside of our house, but no one seemed to notice.  As to why the cops didn’t seem to care that there was a raging party going on inside, I’m not sure.  You could call it the luck of the Irish, or it might have been more of a headache for them to deal with than it was worth. Either way, we didn’t notice our friend being arrested and taken away right outside.

As I mentioned earlier, our friend eventually called our landline with the phone call he was given at the police station.  No one at the party heard the phone, but then my roommate heard the answering machine pick up, so she answered the phone.   The beauty of this was that the whole conversation was recorded on our answering machine.  The exchange included Jerry putting the police officer on the phone to ask my roommate who she was, in which she replied very seriously with her first, middle, and last name, and then the cop asked if there was someone there who could pick up Jerry.  She replied yes, even though we were all hammered by this point.

We were able to find a friend to go pick up Jerry, and then they both came from the police station directly to our party.  Everyone was laughing at the fact that Jerry had actually parked his car on a snow bank, and was caught by the cops.  We also played the answering machine recording over and over again then next day laughing hysterically as we listened.

Although this was a very funny situation at the time, it was not so funny for my friend who received the DWI.  He was actually going to school to be a teacher, and he was supposed to start his student teaching assignment the next semester.  The DWI ended up costing him lots of money in legal fees, and the next semester he was without a licence and had to rely on other people, including me, for rides to and from his student teaching job.

As I look back on this now, it is still a funny story to me, but I also realize how much worse the situation could have been.  My friend could have killed himself or someone else driving, and we could have been arrested for serving minors if the cops had decided to come into our house during the party.  Although I do believe many college kids behave in the way my friends and I did, I’m still amazed that I graduated college without getting arrested as this was a somewhat normal night for me an my friends.

Drunk Lisa survives another St. Paddy’s Day unscathed!

*The names of the people in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.

 

Drunk & Bloated

As I mentioned in my last post, I was at bachelorette party last weekend, and my good friend Katie brought photo albums from college.  Although they were very entertaining, they were also a shocking reminder of how bloated I was during my Drunk Lisa days.

I am tall and slim, and although my wait has fluctuated by a few pounds here and there, I’ve always looked pretty much the same-or so I thought.  The thing that was most noticeable in the pictures from college was how bloated my face was from drinking.  I always thought I looked pretty damn good in college, and never had a problem meeting guys, but looking back it was shocking.

In almost all of the pictures, my Drunk Lisa eyes were in full effect.  Drunk Lisa eyes were one of the first signs of my inebriation.  Basically my eyes would become glassy, and wonder.  Next was usually the slurring of words, which I always tried to impossibly control.  And then, there were be the growing of my extremities.  I’m tall – about 5’9″ and my friends used to always say that once I was drunk my arms and legs would grow even longer and I would flail them around.  This made it extremely hard for people to help me walk as I never could do so on my own once I was drunk.  My ex-boyfriend actually compared me to one of the inflatable air dancers you see outside of car dealerships.  Although this did annoy me, he was spot on.

It was fun reminiscing and looking through the photos last weekend, but it was also a great reminder of what an ass I made of myself in college, and how much better I not only look,  but also feel being sober.