90days

2160 Hours. Give or Take.

Today is a mile marker in my sobriety. Today I am 90 days sober.

I’ve been counting down to this for what seems like much more than 90 days. As much as I stick to the adage of one day at a time, I still have to have shiny objects for my mind to seek out and 90 days was one of those. It’s hard to truly put into words why it means so much and also why it was a stepping stone for me. Other than I would not have guessed I would be here if I had asked myself six months ago. This is the longest I’ve been sober in nine years. And I was only sober then because I was growing a person.

I’m happy, and proud and feeling accomplished. Excited to announce it and let people know I’ve done it. It’s only three months. 90 little days. 2,160 hours (or so). But a difficult 90 days that have taught me a great deal including the understanding that I have an intense amount more to learn.

But I’m also stressed, anxious and my depression is sneaking up behind me after a lengthy reprieve from its haunting effects. There are parts of these past 90 days that have been a breeze. No hesitations, integral revelations and appreciation for the route I’ve chosen. Others have been rife with hurdles and land mines. Some requiring moments of seeking out a life raft or reassuring words.  

Last night, as my anxiety and panic overwhelmed me over something that would perceivably be innocuous to others I had a moment of alcoholic longing. It was wine that came to mind. The velvet feel of it on my tongue. The warmth as it spread through my chest. The gentle buzzing that would fill my head space, crowding out the nagging thoughts and ringing cry of my unease over all the things my anxiety was showing me. 

Because sometimes my anxiety is like show and tell in a class of kindergartners who have been eating sugar all morning and also got no sleep the night before. Belligerently holding up their favorite toys, screaming at you to look and throwing tantrums when someone else gets more attention. It’s chaotic and demanding, which exhausts me.

Overall, while I have this significant moment to applaud and feel pride over, I’m weighed down by a clamoring of thoughts. Of dissatisfaction with certain areas of my life, that aren’t immediately reparable and some I just haven’t come to understand yet. The mom guilt on the days I question my parenting, which are most of them. Usually for simplistic reasons that are truly unjustified self persecution. Sullenness and frustration over constantly having to worry about finances, with very little room to breath and no reserve should anything drastic happen. Mental flogging for not pursuing my writing further, knowing it’s something I enjoy and I would like to see flourish. Even fretting about my exercise regimen and where the hell my discipline has gone to.

It should be a much more exuberant day and perhaps it’s winter doldrums as well, but I’m just struggling on my 90th day, and it’s unfortunate. Maybe part of it is that while I have learned how not to run from what burdens me, now I’m sitting with all of it. There has to be an in between that exists so as not to consistently be in the thick of challenges, feelings and lack of peace. I’ve seen it. Glimpsed it from time to time lately. I’m still determining what makes up the ideal of happiness so that I may claim my own particular definition of it.

Through all of this, I have not caved to the whispers of temporary freedom from these smothering thoughts in the form of a drink. I have stayed true to my drive to succeed at finding a better way. It’s definitely a challenge right now. While I’m excited to hit triple digits, I know that by the time I get there, I could be fatigued and begrudging my inability to moderate. There are times I get a little indignant about being in this position. Watching tv shows where characters drink with freedom, knowing I don’t have that luxury if I want to stay sane (and healthy). Attending my first social outing where I typically would have been plastered by the end of the night. I watched those around me take shots that I usually would have been the one to encourage partaking in and for a moment, I felt a little lost. Without tequila, who am I? Without the raucous laughter following the slamming of shot glasses, where do I fit?

But the moment passed and I embraced the opportunity to actually figure out who I am without inebriation. To know that the next morning wouldn’t be haunted by half-hearted texts about how awful I felt and attempts at piecing together missing pieces of the night. Because I’m not that girl who would have stopped at one. Or five. I never will be.

So here I am, at 90 days. Pieces of me reclaimed. Large parts of me uncertain. Anxiety ridden, at least for the time being. Understanding that even sometimes a day at a time will be too much and that’s okay. The next 90 will be worth it.

Cheers

 

Today I am 52 days sober. I had planned to write this closer to the New Year’s Day. And I’m not sure I ever intended an outright declaration or “announcement” per say. But I posted an image on Instagram that hash tags a movement in the sober society and it got positive feedback and support. So here goes nothing. Or everything.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been known as a drinker. The girl who can drink long past most people. Someone who is in love with vodka, tight with tequila, besties with beer and whimsical with wine. In other words, my liver would take a beating and not say a word. The abuse I’d put it through was all in the name of fun. Or for the sake of chasing away a bad day. Of avoiding an unpleasant situation. Escaping anxiety, suppressing depression, avoiding life for just a few hours. Yet, all those things I was avoiding always seemed to come back the next day. Along with a wicked headache I’d laugh about. Pouring hair of the dog that would turn into a whole puppy.

I think there is a stereotype or a pigeon hole of what people think of as a drunk or an alcoholic. But there are so many degrees of having a problem with drinking (or any addiction, really). I was functional. I waited to get home from work to drink. I day drank on weekends if I wasn’t driving anywhere. But isn’t that what all the fun people do? I’d swear I was going to cut back after this day or that day. I was only going to drink every other day. I was only going to drink on weekends. I was only going to drink on days that had an 8 in the date. I was only going to have one drink. Or two. Yet somehow, I never seemed to make it to any of those goals. There were always excuses. It was a shitty day at work. I was upset with my current relationship and just needed to avoid it for the time being. My kids were being difficult. I was sad. I was happy. The sky was blue.

There are a variety of reasons I stopped. But honestly, one day I woke up, unsure of the night before. Panicked because I wasn’t sure what I had done now. Don’t get me wrong, this was something that happened on a regular basis by the time it got to the weekends. But this time felt different. There are reasons that are too personal to share here. But overall, I suddenly knew. I was never going to be able to moderate my drinking. I was always going to go out and be the one to push shots on people. The one to brag about how many I could take. I wore my tolerance like a badge, yet never realized it was a bandage covering a gaping wound I refused to address fully. I had mornings where my kids would remind me of things I had said or promised and I didn’t fully remember them. The shame of all of it would overwhelm me, my depression would plunge and I would ultimately and ironically suppress the resulting feelings by drinking again.

Yet, as I said, I was fully functional. The most people knew was that I enjoyed drinking. I could drink a lot. I would get liquor as gifts. Beer as thank you’s. Wine to improve a bad day. I was the girl who could keep up, who would always go out for drinks and who seemed okay with it. It was a large piece of my identity. Both to myself and others. Those who know me well know I struggled with the effects. They know I kept trying to quit. They’d listen to my laments over another foolish night. But what Jessica wants to do in the end is always what Jessica is going to do.

When I quit, it felt different than all the other times I had “quit.” It felt like the time I truly needed to. Over the first few weeks, my depression was completely manageable, with very few depressive episodes. The dark circles under my eyes started to fade. Stomach pain I had been experiencing disappeared (which I had even gone to the doctor for and pretended I had no clue what it was. But deep down, I knew). But my anxiety, life, my feelings, oh boy. I had clearly been chasing my anxious nature away with bottomless glasses of Absolut. High strung as a natural tendency, my anxiety was along for the ride like the drunk guy you have to cart home at the end of the night, puking in your backseat and passing out before you get to his place. There’s something I learned about in sobriety called the “pink cloud” and it’s essentially a feeling of euphoria as the weighted effects of alcohol leave your system. It’s when you start to feel all the things you’ve been avoiding, you learn happiness and everything is just there and intense. I have that. But I also now have the lows. The lows of realizing I have to learn how to face my anxiety without running away from it. When something makes me sad or mad or scared, I can’t avoid it with Cabernet. I have to break down each piece and understand what I can change and what I can’t. I have to be in control of my reaction and how I let it take me over or if I even let it into my mind in the first place. Tequila no longer gives me reprieve from feeling lonely. I’ve started tearing up at movies again because my emotions are becoming richer. A bad day sometimes leaves me with a full blown attack that I have to suppress completely so no one knows. Because I still have to function. I have to fight my addiction, carry on like a “normal” adult, be a parent, pay my bills, keep us all fed and clothed and safe. Sober. I can’t buy vodka on the way home. Funny story, I used to stop and buy myself alcohol for later, on the way to get my kids and I would pick up some juice for them at the same time. You know, to be nice to all of us. Maybe they had a rough day and needed some sugar (I’m kidding, simmer down). It was also to suppress the guilt I had over the stop I was making to begin with.

I fear future social settings as the novelty of my sobriety wears off and becomes a wet blanket to some. Don’t get me wrong my friends have been phenomenal. It truly is a part of this that has been much easier than I expected. One of my primary fears was losing people who would no longer see me as fun. Who wouldn’t get to know the sober Jessica. Who would have to find alternate presents to liquor. I luckily have surrounded myself with amazing people. Who are supportive and kind and loving and who don’t give a shit if I order a shirley temple at dinner. (And I don’t care if they order drinks.) Someday, though, there might be a situation where they may not know if I’m comfortable at an event and I may be omitted from the invites. But I’ve made this choice for my own personal health and path and I have to be okay with that. While dating has essentially fallen off the radar in the early part of sobriety as I’m learning who I am, and how to face the intricacies of the nuances of life, I do get lonely and it will come up. (But lesson from sobriety is dating inspired by loneliness is the never the right kind.) Yet, I know from a long history of dating that almost every meeting opener is “want to go have a drink?” As a result, I’m wary and curious how many will end before they’re even planned when I say “I don’t drink.” I mean, I’m well aware I’m fun sober, but alcohol has been welcomed as that social lubricant to the point of it being abnormal if you DON’T need it. But again, as with friends, I know it’s best to surround myself with those who understand my choices, support them and don’t try to dissuade me from doing what’s right for me.  I’m sure there will be more land mines along the way that I wasn’t expecting as I traverse this new trail. I’m going to trip, I’m going to be disappointed and I’m going to see all the things with new eyes.

The key to my success isn’t allowing fear to change my course. Because ultimately I know that fear is what got me here. Fear is what drove me to avoid everything I possibly could. Fear is how I no longer know who I was.

Now, I find out who I am. I’ll let you know about what I find along the way.