All The Jingle Ladies

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or well at least it used to be when I was drinking.  I used to LOVE attending holiday parties back in the day.  The excitement of dressing up and celebrating the holidays over cocktails was something I always looked forward to in my 20’s, until it got to a point where I blacked out, embarrassed myself, and regretted something I did when I woke up the next morning.  That’s how it was towards the end of my active drinking.

This past weekend I attended my sister’s final holiday party in Brooklyn.   She’s been hosting this party for the past 15 plus years, but I haven’t attended since I stopped drinking.  These parties are always a hardcore booze fest with a cast of characters from her life-some of which I’m friends with, and some of which I’ve never met.  Since my sister is moving at the end of the month, I attended this year’s party.

This was a big deal personally for me since when I lived in Brooklyn, I was at my lowest point.  It’s still hard for me to visit friends there because I constantly have reminders of my past life and how horrible it was while I was drinking.  I’m just now comfortable enough to attend parties where there is heavy drinking involved, but even now I have to mentally and physically prepare and know that I can always leave if I don’t feel comfortable.

The day of the party I almost decided not to go, but figured I would go, and see how I felt knowing I could always leave early.  I actually ended up having a great time seeing old friends, and meeting new people.  I also was able to witness some very entertaining things during the night which I will elaborate on in a bit.

During the course of the evening two people came up to me and told me how proud they were of me for being sober.  Both of these women are good friends of my sister, and I actually was very appreciative of what they had to say.  They had both seen me when I was an out of control drunk, and they both mentioned how it was so great that I still had a sense of humor and was able to hang out.

I also met the token drunk dude who I had just been introduced to that evening.  He was very boisterous, and while I was heading to the kitchen to get a glass of water, he tried to get me to chug a drink with him.  I said no thanks, and when he continued to push me, I told him that I’m actually in recovery.  The look on his face was priceless-he didn’t know what to say, and he apologized and I just laughed and said, don’t worry I support you chugging, I just can’t.

I love having these interactions now that I’m comfortable in my sobriety.  Now don’t get me wrong, it’s taken me over five years to be able to be straight with people in these kind of situations, but it’s hilarious to turn the tables on someone who is being obnoxious and pressuring me to drink.

The final icing on the cake was when I went back to my friend’s place to go to bed.  I got there about an hour before my other friends came home, and they were hammered.  I was laying in bed while my one friend was making up the air mattress and my other friend went to the bathroom to change.  My friend in the bathroom was in there for quite some time, which I found a little strange, so I went to check on her, and she was passed out on the toilet.  This is very unlike my friend, and I’ve never actually seen her that drunk, but the kicker was that when I opened the door she was passed out on the toilet with a sweater on that said “All the Jingle Ladies”-as opposed to “All the Single Ladies”.

Although I was dying laughing, I think part of the reason I was laughing so hard was because this was something I totally would have done when I was drinking, and I was just so glad it wasn’t me!  It has definitely taken many years for me to enjoy the holiday season again.  For the first few years I dreaded this time of year, and was hesitant to attend any parties.  It still takes a lot of planning on my party, especially making sure I have good people around me, and an exit strategy, but I’m happy that I can now enjoy this time of year once again.

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Too young to die

This past weekend I attended a celebration of life for one of my sister’s best friends who passed away at the age of 42.  This was an unexpected and shocking death to everyone.  I’m still in shock as it doesn’t seem real.  I had just spent time with her and her family this past summer in Maine and we had a great time together doing yoga on the beach, talking about her upcoming travels, and eating lobster.

She was extremely close to her family, as I am to mine, and I think the thing that hit home the most was that it made me realize what it would be like to lose one of my own siblings.  I can’t imagine having to fill that void of having one of your best friends with you one day, and gone the next.

The celebration was attended by more than 300 people and it was a great testament to the person she was.  She was a big deal in the music industry, and although I knew this as I had interned for her in college, she was so humble and never named dropped.  She truly enjoyed being with her family and friends, and it made me realize how lucky I am to have close family and friends in my life.

The thing I was most grateful for this weekend was that I was able to celebrate her life sober, and be there for my sister who was grieving and needed me.  It also reminded me how important it is to live every day to the fullest,  and spend time with those people who are most important to me.

This journey through life is challenging and has it’s ups and downs, but if it has taught me anything, it’s that even in hard times as long as you surround yourself with the right people you can make it through anything.

 

It’s been a minute

Hi there!  I haven’t posted here in almost a year which is crazy, but the good news is I’m still sober.  Life has just been busy.  In the past 6 months I’ve started a new job, and completed a yoga teacher training course which has helped me immensely.

In the past I’ve talked about things that helped me along my recovery journey, and I do this as a way to share what’s worked for me.  I’m coming up on my 5.5 years sober anniversary, and I’ve personally tried many different avenues to stay sober, but the one that I keep coming back to is yoga.

I’m sharing this because when I was first in recovery I was told that the 12 step program was the only way to stay sober.  This may be true for some people, but recovery is not a one size fits all journey.  Don’t get me wrong I think 12 step meetings are a great way to become sober and meet other alcoholics, but some meetings can be very tough especially for the newly sober, and especially for women.  I struggled with sobriety for 3 months attending 12 step meetings and seeing an addiction counselor and eventually I fell off the wagon, and I fell hard.

After having a horrible 6 months of drinking and eventually hitting my bottom, I agreed to go to rehab which was very helpful from and educational perspective and helped me to learn about the disease.  It was also a scared straight program for someone like me because I will do anything to avoid ever having to go back there.

Being an athletic and physical person, the main thing I couldn’t wait to do when I left rehab was workout.  Although there was a tiny gym at the rehab, I was only allowed to use it 30 minutes a day which was not enough time for me to feel I had accomplished anything physical.

When I completed rehab, I went to live with my Mom who belonged to the local YMCA.  I had been there in the past to use the gym, but had never taken any of there classes.  I looked at the schedule one day and saw something called “Crystal’ates” which was a combination of yoga and Pilates taught by a woman named Crystal.  Although I wasn’t sure about it, I decided to give it a try.

I ended up becoming a regular at the class and part of the reason I kept coming back was the kindness that Crystal,the instructor, showed me.  It was a safe space for me to come and learn something new without being judged.  I ended up loving the class so much that  when I moved I searched for something similar but could only find yoga, so that’s what I ended up doing, and I’ve never looked back.

During this time, I was still attending AA meetings, and going to group therapy.  Although both were helpful, I didn’t get the same sense of relief I felt after completing a yoga class. Yoga is also the only time of day that I truly am unplugged from technology and not thinking about anything but myself.  My mat has become my safe haven and also helped me evolve spiritually.

I recently completed my 200 hour yoga teacher training, and that was probably one of the best things I’ve done for myself since becoming sober.  It forced me to really take a look at my life and make some important decisions about what I want for my future.  I also made some great friends along the way, and although when I signed up for the training I never intended to actually teach, I’m now teaching a few times a month, and I love it.

In conclusion,  the point I’m trying to make in this post is that yoga can be another avenue that may help some people in their recovery.  Although it’s not for everyone, the healing I’ve received from deepening my yoga practice has helped me immensely, and I encourage everyone to explore other avenues that might be helpful to their recovery.

 

Oh What a Long and Crazy 2017 It’s Been

It’s been way too long since I’ve posted anything, and so here I am giving some updates.  I’ve been in flux for the past few months.  Most of this is due to my job and the changes that have been going on there.  I’ve come to accept that I need to find a new position, so I have been looking for things both inside and outside of my organization.

Although I’ve been stressed about this, I also see it as an opportunity for me to do something I actually enjoy, and possibly move somewhere new.  I’ve been relying heavily on my yoga practice to keep my mind at ease, and it has been extremely helpful.  I am also planning on starting a yoga teacher training course in January, so I’m looking forward to that.

Overall I’m feeling hopeful about the changes that will be occurring over the next few months, and I’m proud of myself for learning how to cope with my stress in a positive way as opposed to what I would have handled it five years ago.  Back then I would have been stressed out, not told anyone about my job situation, and drank to cope.  I would have thought this is the worse thing that could happen to me, and thrown myself a pity party.

Luckily I no longer deal with stress by ignoring a situation and drinking to forget about it.  I know that whatever’s meant to happen next in my life is out of my control, so all I can do is enjoy the ride.

Happy Holidays,  and here’s to an exciting new chapter in 2018!

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.

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.