No Cool-aid Here!

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a friend to many, daughter, mother, professional, wife. I used to be person with very questionable drinking behaviors. In other words a lush, a person who could not stop drinking, manic and most often bat shit crazy. My life became crushingly small and I began to fade away into a very dim place.

I would crush it at work, fail miserably at home and try everyday to figure out how to make it better. But I continued to drink the cool-aid, just like when I was a kid. Sugary goodness that we all knew was rotting our teeth and making us crazy hyper but we drank it anyway.

Cool-aid was a treat as a kid, then for me wine became the cool-aid of my adult life, it was still sugary and sweet but it was taking more from me than my teeth!

For me “cool-aid” is not just about the wine. It is about all the norms we hold ourselves to even when we know better. How to dress, act, who to be friends with, how to be a mom or the good wife. You name it! I was drinking the Cool-aid about all of it but not anymore.

I stopped drinking and starting thinking about how I needed to find my spark again and stop drinking the god damn Cool-aid!

Come along for the ride on my the journey of sobriety, finding myself (again?) and living life with all the ups, downs and in between.

Fake It To You Make It

Fake it to you make it was a saying my old boss used to say and it always made me chuckle.  The saying was always referring to work and used when we did not know something or total understand something new or different.  We were both obviously very smart people but there were the times when we would have to take on new programs, teams or work that was really new and we would have to work hard  to really understand it to make good decisions.  If I was nervous about it or did not how I would present information she would always reassure me with a quick “fake it to you make it” comment and we would both laugh, lifting the worry or anxiety around whatever it was we were trying to figure out or explain to others.  

We never really meant “fake it” as in just fake what you really know and don’t know.  We always dug in and figured it out. We always took the time to study, learn, interview and dive into the right level of detail to support our people and teams.  It was not a cop out, more of a way to get over the worry and acknowledge we were smart and did not have to be afraid.

I tell you this story because I was faced with an invitation last night to visit with my neighbors, super nice people who are very out going and our sons are very good friends.  We live really close to each other and I wanted to get to know them better.  

We are new to our neighborhood, which is very social, and they know everyone so I thought it a good idea to go over and visit. They asked me over for a margarita.  Yes this is were the puberal needle scratched across the record and brought me to a halt.  CRAP! I want to go! CRAP! I can’t go! CRAP! How will I explain why I am not drinking? CRAP! CRAP!

So I texted her back to say I was waiting for pizza for the kids and one other thing.  Then I started pacing and wondering if I could go over and just not drink? But then I thought what if they think I am a prude, uptight and not “like them”? Would they put me in the “not fun neighbor” bunch?

I know your are thinking “what the fuck are you doing”? No, is a complete sentence right?  Well, right or wrong, I was not truly thinking of myself but my son.  He is such good friends with the boy next to us and all the other boys they hang out with.  I was worried they would not include him or not invite him or us to parties or boating etc.  I just did not want my “problem” to become his or impede him from friendships or a full life in any way.  I am not saying they would do this at all! It was the story I was telling myself, on repeat in the moment. Whether it was really ever going to come true or not it was the story in my head.

So I started mapping the scenarios for myself about how I could go over and not drink but make it look like I was drinking.  “Fake it to you make it, right?”  Well, I had several scenarios in mind.

  1. Bring a drink with me so I could say, “I’m good I brought something with me”.
  2. Bring a drink with just a tiny splash of something in it just in case they ask what it is and I could feel like I had taken the edge off.
  3. Don’t bring anything and say, “just making a quick pit stop” as the boys are having friends over and I can’t leave them for too long.
  4. If they ask me if I want a drink or a refill I just say, “Na I have to get up early tomorrow to get some work done before the kids get up.”
  5. Just say it is too late tonight and I have kids here but next time for sure.

Ok, you must be thinking that is a lot of time spent on thinking about how not to drink! Yes, it was and I knew it and still know it.  And I know better! I know it should not matter if I drink or not for people to like me. I know I can fake it to save my sobriety and I know I can just say, “No”. No to coming over, no to a drink, no to thinking too much about whether or not I have to drink to be friends with people.  I know all of things.  

There are some many times when we can over think or beat ourselves up about this drinking thing.  I know we need to protect ourselves and our sobriety and make good decisions in order to keep it. 

This story and scenario is real and happens all the time for people new or at shaky points in their sobriety. So what was my choice from the list above?  Not the right one but one I learned a lot from this scenario and how to be stronger, wiser and to fake it until I make it. 

I learned many lessons and better tools from this experience.  I learned to fake it.  I learned I can still go and give myself permission to say no thanks to a drink and to change the subject. “Want a margarita?” “No thanks, hey catch me up on what has been going on with you guys.” “ What’s up with the boys?”  Basically, changing the subject and moving on to a different topic to take the focus off the drink.  Or I can bring my own “cocktail” or cup with fizzy water so they will not even question whether or not you want a drink cause I have one in my hand.  “Want a refill?” “No, that’s ok I have an earlier day tomorrow so I am taking it easy tonight.”  

All these answers and actions are so easy right?  Well, that night I did not use my tools and did not keep to my story I was afraid and anxious they would not like me or my son if I did not come over with a drink – with a splash  in it to take the edge off or have a refill margarita with them.  So I did both of those things.  Both wrong, both I regret. 

I half beat myself up over it and half felt I learned a very great lesson.  I can fake it to I make it and no one will really question me or ask me to drink.  I can show up empty handed or with a drink in my hand that does not have alcohol in it and no one will know the wiser.  I realized they really did not care whether I had a drink in my hand or not.  We had a great conversation with tons of laughter, talked about getting together with our families, all things I wanted to happen.

The peer pressure we have felt while growing up to fit in and be liked does not go away as an adult.  We are creatures that crave connections and for those of us who don’t drink we can give ourselves permission to “Fake it to we make it” in order to learn how to navigate fostering connections.  We can give ourselves permission to pick the right answers from the list above.  Go and bring your own drink without the alcohol of course. Go and just make it a quick pit stop with the caveat you have something going on that you have to get back. Don’t go and politely say next time.  These and many other suggestions can be your choices.  You don’t have to give in like I did because I was wondered about what they would think of me or how much they would or would not relate to me and want to be better friends.  

The point is they will either like you or they won’t sober and you can fake it you make it with no harm, no foul done to move past the initial “get to know you better” scenarios.

I have learned a valuable lesson and added tools to my toolbox from this scenario.  One, I am sure I will face over and over again.  I share this story for those of you faced with similar experiences. Do what is right for you and your sobriety.   “Fake it to you make it” with the definition of I am learning, growing and figuring it out as I go. Or just don’t go.  Just make the choice about you and what it best for you and your boundaries.

Back in Black

Then fast forward to a few years ago my husband and I were having a lot of parties at our house, kids swimming and adults have fun but then my husband would talk about something someone said, or a conversation from the night before, and I would have to fake the fact that I remembered it.  When in fact, did not recall the conversation or the remark.  I did not remember what was said or when people left.  I would not remember putting my kids to bed or conversations we had had together from the night before. It started to scare me and made me really question if I was losing my memory, Alzheimer’s potentially, but I did not really know that what I was experiencing were black outs.

I never really connected the amount of alcohol I was drinking to the fact I could not remember things.  I would wake up and have to lay there trying to piece together the night before and this was happening a lot! It was beginning to frighten me and make me begin to think that I might need to stop drinking. Finally, I connected the dots or maybe just got real with myself for once, about the fact my drinking was getting worse.

I did not want to live this way, not remembering things, not being there for my kids, not being present with my friends and family.  I did stop drinking for two months and I noticed how much I remembered and how present I was with my family.  But of course then I thought I was cured and could drink again and very quickly I was back in the black again.   

I drank for a while again, then quitting again for 4.5 months and life was great.  I was getting strong, healthy, rational and empowered but made a decision to have a drink at a party and threw it all away.  And by the way, that very night I drank to excess and did not remember most of the evening.  There I was again, back in the black.  Black outs that is!

As I tried to quit and shrink the number of nights I don’t remember the end or going to bed were still growing so I knew I needed to get real, get strong, and bring back the light.  

I am embarrassed of myself as I write this but once the words on the page you can’t take them back. I am embarrassed I keep going back to the thing that makes me numb, less present and ashamed.  When the clarity about what I have to do is so strong I know what I have to do to take back the light and live in the black anymore.

Living in the light is so much better!

Famous Last Words

How many times have I said the words, “I am not going to drink tonight!” OR “I am not going to stop at the store on the way home tonight.” Then my all time favorite, “I am not drunk!” Of course I was drunk 90% of the time when I would say that in response to my husband and if I was not drunk I was well on my way to getting there.  

So many famous last words for those of us who drank.  Yes, I said drank because for me I wanted my famous last words to be, “I can’t wait to get home to my family.” OR “Hey do you want to watch tv with me or do you want me to read a book to you.”  I wanted to surprise everyone in my family when they were going to the movies or store and I would want to come with them.  These things did not really happen for many years before as chose to isolate myself to hide my secret.  

My famous last words and my drinking became infamous in many ways.  I did not have to worry about famous last words, because I was to the point where I did not even really want to have lengthly conversations or be around many people to say any famous last words.  Not to mention perhaps slurrying my famous last words for that particular evening.

Life is made up of moments, messages and finally words many, many words, that can either hurt or heal people.  My new famous last words are the ones that heal me and help others.  Honestly, I don’t know what all my new famous last words will be each day or each night but they won’t be, “I am not Drunk! 

I will drive past the store, I will stay sober and maybe, just maybe I just told you my most famous last words.

No Cool-aid Here!

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a friend to many, daughter, mother, professional, wife. I used to be person with very questionable drinking behaviors. In other words a lush, a person who could not stop drinking, manic and most often bat shit crazy. My life became crushingly small and I began to fade away into a very dim place.

I would crush it at work, fail miserably at home and try everyday to figure out how to make it better. But I continued to drink the cool-aid, just like when I was a kid. Sugary goodness that we all knew was rotting our teeth and making us crazy hyper but we drank it anyway.

Cool-aid was a treat as a kid, then for me wine became the cool-aid of my adult life, it was still sugary and sweet but it was taking more from me than my teeth! 

For me “cool-aid” is not just about the wine. It is about all the norms we hold ourselves to even when we know better. How to dress, act, who to be friends with, how to be a mom or the good wife. You name it! I was drinking the Cool-aid about all of it but not anymore.

I stopped drinking and starting thinking about how I needed to find my spark again and stop drinking the god damn Cool-aid!

Come along for the ride on my the journey of sobriety, finding myself (again?) and living life with all the ups, downs and in between.