Friday, August 31, 2012

Cottage Debrief

Well, I'm back from my week at a friend's cottage, and I'm still sober. Victory!

I'm not going to lie, there were some really tough, really challenging moments during the week. Camping and cottaging are big-time triggers for me, I guess. I think it's because when I was drinking, these type of vacations were when I would give myself absolute permission to let loose: start with alcohol-infused coffee in the morning, maybe mimosas or a pre-lunch beer, and work my way up to the hard stuff for the campfire bits...and do this the whole week.

It started even before I left. While I was shopping for snacks for the trip up, I found myself tempted by the no/low-alcohol beer section in the store. That was a warning sign. I'm not sure if drinking fake beer would trigger my addiction responses or not, but I'm not eager to test my mettle. Testing myself is a really good way to earn a relapse. What if I try a cold fake beer and find out that I really, really miss the real thing?

At the cottage, it was really hard the first morning to watch everyone share my partner's Bailey's. My boyfriend even got himself drunk before 11am. I found myself missing that devil-may-care attitude. Later, when we went for a supply run to the nearby town, I found myself in the liquor store, surrounded by so much booze. Still, I stayed strong.

The parts where I was tempted were really difficult, and I did find myself wondering if it was always going to be that hard. And, maybe it will be, but I stayed sober anyway. And there were moments that week where it was really, really good that I did.

One night, we were playing boardgames and my partner, who was a bit tipsy, lost his temper and snapped at me. It happens. But in the moment, when I was about to lose my temper back at him, I was able to pull back. I had a moment where I was able to see past how angry and hurt I was and instead of hurting him back by saying something vicious and quitting the game, causing a scene in front of all of our friends, I just gave myself some time to just collect myself and less than 5 minutes later, everyone was back to having fun (and I won that game, too). That could not have happened if I'd been drinking. Being sober gave me a chance to reflect on my feelings, and I was able to bring it up with my boyfriend later when we were both calm, and we talked through it. Maybe that's what life is like for everyone most of the time, but I really felt like a superhero in that moment.

On the last day, getting a drive back into town to catch our bus, I suddenly remembered the year before, and how grumpy I'd been on the whole ride home, mostly because I was hungover and had gone on a ridiculous bender the night before. This time, there was no guilt, no shame, no physical or psychological sickness.

When I started my sober thing 11 months ago, I knew this trip to the cottage would be a challenge. I was afraid of it. I'm really, really glad to have it behind me, and to know that I succeeded. It`s one more milestone on this new path. I've got other challenges ahead of me (and leave it to byebyebeer to post about relapse warning signs, just in the nick of time), but right now I've earned myself a pat on the back.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


I am officially on vacation. I am also unemployed, so it suggests the question: "How do I know I am on vacation and not just being lazy?"

I don't really have an answer to that, except that I have given myself permission to not worry about anything until September 1st, and then at that time I will worry about everything.

We're actually going to a friend's cottage for a week, leaving Wednesday, which will really help with the "not worrying" part. I'm looking forward to it, even though there's a little bit of worry about the not-drinking thing. I shouldn't worry about that, as the people I will be hanging out with are not big drinkers. What I will miss is the tradition of waking up and having "special coffees" in the morning (with Bailey's). I'm going to get myself some sort of flavoured creamer (non-alcoholic) so that I can pretend that's what I'm doing. I usually drink my coffee black, so having something else in it will give me the illusion of something special.

What I will NOT miss is the constant monitoring of everyone else around me to decide if I can drink more without setting off anyone's "is he drinking too much?" meters.

Other than the cottage, I am also reading/working through a book by Sarah Domet called 90 Days to your Novel, which, as it says, is a step-by-step guide to writing a novel in ninety days. Today was day one. It requires that I spend 2-3 hours -minimum- each day writing, which, even doing nothing, will be rough. Today I wrote for about 1 and a half hours, so, not a success...but not a complete failure, either.

After my vacation, my goals are: 1)writing 2)part-time-job-hunting 3)student-loan securing 4)gym-stuff (have I mentioned I've heard a personal trainer? I have. it starts september 4th. I'm frightened) 5)one more class from school.

That should be enough to keep me busy.

Anyway, since I am on vacation, I am not worried about anything for the next two weeks!!

Friday, August 17, 2012


I have a draft version of this post that was a bit of a downer. I started writing it yesterday, but got bogged down in history, and was feeling pretty lame about myself. In short, I waited too long to apply for a student loan, and so my school is saying that I can only register for the January semester, which is not what I wanted. I want to be a full-time student now! Now, now, now!!

All summer, I've had my hopes set on returning to school full time in September. I'm in a bit of a tricky situation right now, because I'm unemployed and on employment insurance. I was hoping to get the loan quickly so that I could get off EI, then get a part time job, but mostly focus on my studies. On my loan application, I filled out my projected earnings based on that, but if I'm not getting a loan this fall, that means I have to get a full time job, which will change my projected earnings, which means that what I put on my application is incorrect, and now I have this terrible fear that everything is ruined and my hope of going back to school was ruined before I even started.

It can't be as dire as all that. But I'm still freaking out. Last night I couldn't get to sleep (though thank goodness for the boyfriend: he did and said all the right things. He couldn't make the problems go away, but his being there reminded me that I'm not the loser asshole that I was thinking I was). I'm still not sure what I'm going to do.

Actually, that's not true. There's a course of action I can take, and all it means is that my education is delayed by 4 months, which I can easily make up if I take a full course load next summer. 4 months isn't an insane amount of time.

What I have to deal with right now is understanding that even if I do all the right things, I still may not get what I want or need. I may be disappointed. My funding may not come through. This is really hard for me, because part of my strategy for being sober rests heavily on the idea that being sober is going to make my life better....which, no, sobriety is not a magic wand. Drinking would certainly make my life worse, but that does not mean that sobriety will make my life better...if that makes sense.

If I go into things believing that I will succeed, just because I'm sober, I will be disappointed. Sooner or later I will have to accept that the world doesn't work that way. The world is not a vending machine where, if I put the right actions in, I will get my favourite tasty treat out. The world is complicated and messy. The world is cruel and cold. Outside of my precious sphere of loved ones, the world doesn't care about me.

It's wrong for me to expect good things just because I'm working hard at being sober. I can't let myself think that the world will reward my sobriety. If I need to draw on more strength to say no to drinking, I have to find that strength elsewhere.

Hm. I'm concerned that this post is reading just as bad as the draft one was. But it shouldn't. Part of what makes booze so bad for me is that it created a world of illusions, where I could keep making horrible decisions and still convince myself that everything was okay. Being sober doesn't mean that I get what I want when I want it, it means that I can see past the illusions. Seeing things as they are means that sometimes what I see will be ugly or disappointing, but seeing things honestly is important to me. And that is a better reason to stay sober.

And another benefit of seeing things more clearly is that I can see that, even with this minor set-back, I have a lot in my life to be thankful for. I can see how amazing my partner is, for example. And I can reflect on the actions I took and realise that, yeah, they didn't turn out the way I'd like, but I still took all the right actions. I can't blame myself for this situation being what it is...and for someone who still carries a fair amount of guilt for his past actions, that's a pretty impressive thing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Disappointed Animals

I really should be going to bed, but clicked a link to a list of disappointed (but adorable) animals that I wanted to share. A lot of the captions (a LOT) have the animals being disappointed about something alcohol-related, so I thought that maybe some of my readers could use them as a light-hearted way to remind ourselves why we're doing the sober thing. You wouldn't want to tick off a bunch of cute animals, would you?

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I passed ten months sober last weekend, and I guess it was what I would call a hard weekend. Not necessarily that I would drink, but that I was thinking a lot about drinking, and caught myself throughout the weekend (and a little bit this past week) being nostalgic for the booze. If I look back, I think there were warning signs, little, tiny minor things that were creeping into my thought patterns and actions that could be echoes of my brain when I was drinking. Just little lies I would tell myself, that didn't hurt anyone, but didn't really help anything, either. Why was I lying, to myself, about stuff that I didn't need to lie about?

The details aren't really important, but basically I'm at one of those points where I'm worried about an outcome (getting a student loan), have done all of the things I need to do (fill out forms and send them in), and now the only thing left to do is wait. So, there's no control at this point. If anyone watched the Mars rover, Curiosity, land....those "14 minutes of terror" where none of the NASA controllers can do anything and just have to wait to see if their robots are smart enough to do everything right, well, this is just like that. Except weeks instead of minutes. And a lot more boring.

Anyway, all this stress was creeping up on me and I didn't really notice it until the Friday. My bf had some friends over before going out, and I decided to just hide in the bedroom and read (something I do, sometimes...I'm not always very social). When they left, I crept out of my room and suddenly I simply had to know if they had been drinking, and if there was any alcohol still in the apartment. I didn't intend to drink it, I assured myself (and I do believe it), but I still wanted to know.

There wasn't any booze, but (and this is where I kind of creep myself out) there was a shot glass, which I raised to my nose to sniff. Yep, there had been a really bad-smelling alcoholic drink in there. It was when I smelled it that I realised how crazy I was being, and that scared me.

The last time I was this long sober, about 7 years ago, I lasted 11 months. And I am at 10 months. I'm nervous. I feel like there's a trap around here waiting to be sprung.

The difference from last time is that back then, I never made the decision to quit forever. Even though I was sober for 11 months, I hadn't taken that last step, the one that I'm now sure that I, personally, have to take for my well being, which is admitting that I can not ever drink again. Back then, my sobriety was an experiment. I was just seeing if I could do it. And then the plan would be to gently ease myself into responsible drinking and live happily ever after, the fairy tale of being able to live a good life AND get wasted whenever I wanted.

So, that's a pretty big difference. I'm certain that it's the big difference. And the fact is that ever since I came clean about my inability to control alcohol and admitted that I could never drink again, every day ever since has been easier. That admission closes the door on a lot of the options I might have thought I had. This isn't an experiment. I had the experiment, I got my results.

I think last weekend my confidence was shaken. A couple of days later, the Sunday, I made myself go out with some friends to a dance club that has a retro night every now and then, and had a small panic attack when I realised that I was drinking soda water and my boyfriend had ordered a vodka and soda....what if we mixed up the glasses?! It was like a drunk dream happening in real life. I worked through it, and eventually had a good time (and came home just in time to watch the Mars landing, which was awesome....wouldn't have done that if I was still drinking).

I'm not sure where I stand right now. I guess it's a good sign that my biggest fear is that I might accidently start drinking again (do I live on a sitcom where misunderstandings and hillarious mix-ups happen every week?, like, I will trip and my lips will fall onto a beer bottle and then suddenly I'm guzzling cheap booze like there's no tomorrow....if my biggest fears are things that happen in cartoons, then maybe I'm okay.

But I also think that I had a close call. Like, what if, while I was already feeling like that, some life crisis had happened, and then a well-meaning friend offered me a shot to feel a little better? Would I have had the reserves to stay sober?

In the end, it keeps coming back to the basics. I can't know the future, there are a limitted number of variables I can control. I know that I want to be sober. I know that even if I do stumble, I will keep on trying to quit until I get it right. I know that I am strong enough to be sober today, and I will probably be strong enough tomorrow, and that every day that I don't drink is a victory and makes the next day a little easier.

I'm already making plans to have a quiet, little party for myself (and maybe the boyfriend) when October 5th, 2012 comes around. I want to write a post here. I want to give myself a hug. I want to go to a bookstore and spend a crazy amount of money on books instead of booze. I want to tell people how proud I am of myself, and I want a kiss from my bf when he tells me he's proud of me, too.

I'll get through this case of nerves, and I will do that while sober.