Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sobriety Blogs

I've been reading a lot of these lately, some in bits and pieces, some start to finish like a book, beginning with the earliest posts and moving forward. Some bloggers like Mrs D make this easy by posting her early posts all together on one page by month.  It's to blog reading what Netflix binge-watching is to watching the episodes as they come out.

Other blogs I have to do it the old fashioned way. I'm doing that with And Everything Afterward,

I finished UnPickled long ago, and now have to wait for new episodes the way I had to do with Dallas when I was a teenager. (I thought I might die waiting to find out who shot J.R.)

On some blogs I don't have to read the old posts at all, because the authors have written books and saved me the trouble, like Mr. SponsorPants. I bought his Kindle book in part out of laziness (not having to go back and read the early posts) and in part because writers need to support each other's efforts financially. Not that I have a book for anyone to buy at the moment, but I'm banking karma just in case I actually do get my act together enough to have one published. Rather than working on my own writing, I have been reading his stories of conversations like this one between him and his sponsors and sponsees in AA. I've done a lot of thinking about my overactive ego as a result of these.

I wrote all of the above yesterday as a draft. This morning I went to a meeting. And got brave enough to ask someone to be my sponsor.

Oh. My. God.

This shit is real now.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Dysfunctional Debate Team in My Head

That's what a fellow denizen of an online sobriety group called that exhausting, maddening mental dialogue that goes something like this:

I think I drink too much.
But you don't get falling down drunk and end up in bed with strange men.
Yeah, but I don't stop at one glass when I say I'm going to.
Yeah, but you don't drink the whole bottle.  Not every time, anyway.
Often enough.
But sometimes you just have two and it's cool.
But sometimes not.
Alcoholics can NEVER stop at two. They drink till they pass out or run out.
Aren't there gradations of alcoholic?
You're not that bad. Really.
Really. You're a gainfully employed professional who gets to work on time, with make-up on, gets the kids to school on time, pays her bills and her taxes on time.
Maybe I'm what they call a "high functioning" alcoholic?
But you don't always finish the bottle.  Alcoholics always finish the bottle.
But I'm tired of thinking about whether to finish the bottle...

And on and on it goes.  There are some in that online group who never take the first drink without finishing every drop of alcohol within reach. There are others like me who had a "high bottom" and stopped because they found trying to moderate too exhausting, and worried about the problem getting worse.

Allie writes of this on her blog, And Everything Afterwards, which I just discovered, happily. She quotes an email she sent to a friend nine years ago:

And when there’s wine in the fridge I have a glass or two of an evening just generally…
And sometimes it’s not a glass or two. It’s the best part of a bottle. Every now and then, it’s a bottle….I have a problem, don’t I?...[but] I’m functional. I don’t miss work, I don’t damage relationships, I don’t spend money I don’t have, I don’t do any of the things that scream ‘alcoholic’.

That was me, all right. I can relate to so much of what she writes, like this piece on AA, about how people make these dire predictions about how no one can get and stay sober on their own. I am also with her on this one, about the one day at a time vs never drinking thing: I want to make the decision once, never to drink again, rather than every day. But, as she writes, maybe that is because it isn't hard for me to get through each day without drinking. Most days I don't think about it, except when I'm reading sobriety stuff, which only makes me grateful not to be drinking. Fancy restaurants and Fridays right after work are the only times I think a little wistfully about having a drink, but it's not a big struggle not to.

Mrs D has written often, as here, about being resolved never ever to drink again.  In addition to the "one day at a time" rule, she hits another AA hot button in this post: surrender. She writes:
I choose sober over drunk.
 I choose it. I do. Me. This is my life and if I choose not to touch alcohol ever again then I won't touch alcohol ever again. I have no-one to fear but myself. I don't fear myself. I trust myself.
 Call this determination. Call it grim reality. Call it sad and boring, call it brave and amazing. Call it what you like. I don't mind. I'll just be over here staying sober for the rest of the days of my life.

Throughout her blog, she emphasizes her determination, her resolve, her choice not to drink. She, like Allie and me, was a high functioning alcoholic with a "high bottom" who stopped herself before things got really scary. AA says alcoholics can only get sober by admitting their powerlessness and surrendering, and devotees of AA call people who try to "white knuckle" it to sobriety "dry drunks".

There is something to this. I think if you "white knuckle" it, force yourself to keep away from alcohol by sheer willpower without doing any of the serious emotional work that AA promotes, then you probably will exhaust your willpower or, if you stay sober, you'll stay miserable as well.  But I think it's possible to do the emotional work outside the context of AA. Blogging is how Mrs D (and presumably Allie, whose blog I am just beginning to explore) did it.

I am not opposed to AA. I go to AA meetings when I can, but a busy schedule makes this irregular. I don't have a sponsor (which horrifies people at meetings when they find out) and have not systematically worked the steps, in part because I'm having so much trouble with the early ones. But more about that in a future post.

For now, I will just say a heartfelt thank you to Allie for her blog, and head back there to explore a bit more. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Do these jeans make my...?

I bought my first pair of skinny jeans today.  Well, the first this century.  I wore them in the 80s when everyone else did, of course.  But I when I was taking my teenage daughter shopping for clothes for her, she mentioned (once again) the appalling fashion horror of my boot cut jeans, which she insists on calling "bell bottoms" which they're not.

So I tried on a pair while she was trying things on.  They got her stamp of approval.  "Except..." she began.  "They make your butt look big.  Not to be mean or anything," she added hastily.  "I'm just being honest."

The really neat thing that struck me about that conversation is that it didn't make me feel fat or unattractive or old old or upset or offended, or even too self-conscious to buy the jeans.  I just made a joke referencing a lyric about the female anatomy in one of the godawful pop songs she likes and bought them.

In a world where women feel so much shame about their bodies, I felt happy that I don't.  Happy that I don't ask, "Does this dress make me look fat?" or "Do these jeans make my butt look big?" whenever I get dressed.  It helps that the jeans are a size 4, of course.  How big could it be, really?

But reality isn't enough to silence the chorus of shame so many women hear inside their heads.  The thin girl who looks in the mirror, sees a fat girl and abuses herself with anorexia or bulimia isn't saved by having a slender body.  Her shame overrides reality, and she starves herself until she looks like a concentration camp survivor or purges until her esophageal sphincter stops working.

I am not immune to shame.  It's just that my self-abuse of choice is wallowing in Bad Mother Shame. No matter how caring and loving and patient I am with my kids, day to day, all I have to do is lose my cool and snap at them, and the chorus of Bad Mother, Mommy Dearest, Selfish Bitch, Worst Mother in the World... starts playing in my head.  I know it's unreasonable to think I can be a perfect mother, know it's lunatic perfectionism, just plain batshit crazy, but I can't seem to talk the irrational, emotional part of me out of it.

The fact that I genuinely like my middle-aged body and am not self-conscious about it makes me really, really happy.  If I could get to the same place about my imperfect parenting, that would be an even bigger achievement than being able to squeeze my middle-aged butt into size 4 skinny jeans.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Procrastination Is Fear

It is. I know it is. And yet, knowing it, I still do it.

I'm writing a memoir. I tell myself -- and the few other people I get brave enough to tell, except one -- that it's only for myself, a form of self-therapy, that I have no intention of ever trying to get it published. Why would I? Why would anyone want to read my story?

I know the answer. It's the same reason I read other people's memoirs and blogs. I enjoy it, and it helps me, helps me see that it's not just me, that other people go through the same things I do, have the same problems, the same self-destructive, self-sabotaging thoughts and fears. My story might help others and others' stories have helped me.

Then why am I afraid to say that to people? And why am I afraid to write it?

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Sugar Witch

That's the name Mrs. D used for it. I like it. I did a double-take this morning when I read this post on her blog, where she opened by saying she gave herself a B- in something. So funny, since I wrote a post saying the exact same thing yesterday.

The Sugar Witch is something one of my daughters and one of my closest friends struggle with in a very painful way. The way I deal with her is similar to how I deal with wine:  as close to total abstinence as possible. It's easier that way, if I just say, "I don't eat crap" like I say, "I don't drink." I made the mistake of saying that to someone who's been sober in AA for some time, and he went off on me, lecturing me about how you won't kill someone after eating a bowl of ice cream and driving. Sigh...

So I keep quiet about the similarities between food addiction and alcohol addiction now, but I think they're considerable. I remember years ago, long before I started drinking alcoholically, my dad was telling me about a study where they showed alcoholics and non-alcoholics the same short film clip, in which two people were having dinner, finished and got up and left. The alcoholics who watched all noticed -- and were bothered by -- the fact that they people left their wine glasses half full, while the non-alcoholics didn't notice.

At the time, I never noticed unfinished drinks in movies or TV, but I did notice uneaten food that looked appetizing. I understood that dialogue needs required people to talk rather than chew, so they couldn't eat it, but it used to bother me anyway. When my dad told me about that study, I realized that I had addictive tendencies toward food. Well, realized is the wrong word. I'd known that all my life. I never had anorexia or bulimia, but food was always on my radar screen -- how much I ate, how much other people ate, how much I wanted to eat, what other people would think if they saw how much I ate, and so on.

I'm not sure why, but somewhere along the line, I stopped being obsessed with food. After a lifetime of struggling to keep my weight down, it is now stable without struggle. Effort, yes, but struggle, no. Just when women stereotypically put on weight -- over 40 and after kids -- I suddenly became a thin person inside as well as out.

I sometimes wonder if I just switched addictions, trading food for alcohol. It wasn't too long after my weight maintenance became easy that I started to drink too much. I suppose food is a safer addiction, but alcohol is an easier addiction to overcome, for me at least, because total abstinence is possible, whereas it isn't with food. You can give up alcohol entirely, but you still have to eat.