This Cup Had My Name On It

It snowed here overnight. A few inches of snow, which was immediately covered by the famous “wintry mix.” Schools, offices, bases all closed today.

Last year around this time we had a similar storm. I was on Day 46 for that snow day. Today, here in the 2.0 version of NoMoreSally, I’m at Day 57. Last year I was dreading the “informal social gatherings.” This year, I don’t have that problem, as I don’t really do social gatherings of any kind – informal or formal.

I do: home, work, meetings and morning runs with my two girlfriends.

Certainly, there are also a few extracurricular coffees and extended family gatherings. Once a week I gather for decaf coffee with three friends to do a Brené Brown study. But, honestly, that’s about it. My husband and I no longer head out to the local beer bar or wine cafe. We don’t host Friday night socials. I am no longer the crew director for my neighbors and friends. I am certain they are gathering without me, which is FINE (she said in a high-pitched tone), but is also totally okay (normal tone now). I don’t drink and these events are drinking activities.

But I am a little lonely and that loneliness adds to my increasingly-apparent Anxiety. This Anxiety is something the wine “fixed” (at least during the drinking hours). Now, without my wine fix, my Anxiety hangs around all day chatting me up and bringing me down.

I am concerned that my newly defined, every-so-slightly-smaller social circle will not be enough for my husband and my children, whose social calendars are historically filled in by me, usually with the same activities I’ve planned for my neighbors and friends. I worry that these same friends are not going to be my friends for much longer. That our connections were/are tenuous and as I go further into sobriety they will think I am too serious, too different, too SOBER.

I am also worried that my opinion of them will change and I won’t be able to connect with them in a meaningful way.

There are new connections at the AA meetings I attend. People are recognizing me and greeting me with warmth and familiarity. I was meant to go to a meeting last night, but as a Virginian, I don’t drive in snow. (It’s part of our Virginian charm, Sherry.) Later last night, I received a text from a friendly AA pal that said “The cup had your name on it!” with this picture attached.

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Sweet, yes? Agreed. It also made me anxious (what doesn’t these days?) and I immediately thought, “Wow, this AA shit is starting to creep into my real life.”

Yes, that same real life that I just said was pretty much nonexistent.

But here is my truth: even though I am scared and lonely and my only constant companion is Anxiety, I still want to stay sober.

I still want to keep moving forward into the spooky cave ahead, hopeful that it opens up into a light-filled, warm, wonderland of sober goodness.

Onward.

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The “F” Word

Feelings.

Yes. In this post, I’m going to write about feelings.

Writing about feelings is, to me, the blogging equivalent of looking for your seat on a crowded international flight and realizing it’s next to the single mom with a newborn and a toddler.

A special kind of hell.

As I’ve committed more time to sobriety, “feelings” have begun cropping up. Nothing happens in a vacuum and my drinking/hangover hours have been filled with other activities, not necessarily of my choosing. In the evenings, rather than have a glass of wine, I have a sober conversation with my 9-year-old about his anxieties. In the early morning hours, rather than deal with a hangover, I deal with my “committee,” the voices in my head that love to go on about things, both trivial and great.

A great deal of my feelings have to do with things that happened many years ago. Things that cannot be changed, but things that changed me. These things made alcohol an attractive partner. Together, we would numb my feelings and stuff them into uncategorized emotional cells, to be processed never.

Alas, despite my best efforts, that emotional penitentiary system is no longer working. And so, here I am, feeling things from ten years ago and trying to act all cool about it. Trying to act as if nothing has happened. Trying to act as if the only tool I know how to wield against “feelings,” i.e. my trusty prison cop, my bottle of wine, is still at my disposal.

“Get your shit buttoned up,” I’ve been telling myself for years. “Other people have real problems. You’re being ridiculous.” And I did keep my shit buttoned up. Successfully. Except for the isolated, nightly, over drinking. And even that I successful kept buttoned up. So much so that I now have to convince my husband and my friends that I really do have a drinking problem. Really.

I think it was another sober blogger who shared Brené Brown’s “Empathy vs. Sympathy” video clip. It made an impact on me when I saw it last year. I sent it to my friends and we talked about how we needed to avoid offering the “at least” advice/comfort in moments of distress. We laughed at how easy “at least” comes out of our mouths even when we know better.

“At least the Navy pays people to move you every 9 months!”

“At least you have a husband, even if he’s always deployed!”

“At least your kid only has ADHD.”

These, clearly, are not helpful verbal offerings. And yet, these poisonous sentiments are what I’ve been offering myself for ten years – those sentiments and a daily bottle of wine.

The past few sober weeks, as I’ve been talking to my kid, and my committee, and myself, I’ve heard myself use “at least” a lot. I can’t stand it anymore. Yes, other people have terrible problems. Yes, I have much to be thankful for.

But I was in a deep hole. I was stuck. It was dark and I was overwhelmed.

You see, I was alone on that international flight, except for my infant and my toddler. I was that woman.

I am that woman.