Clean

Reflections of Striving for Sobriety During A Pandemic

In these current days and times I have been cleaning more than I ever have out of necessity really, to keep my family safe and healthy.  As I wipe every handle and countertop, I think about the word clean and what it means to me when it comes to my drinking.  I am not clean or sober, but striving for that now more than ever so I can keep my sanity and wits about me.  I am heading into a time where my kids will need to be home schooled and cared for emotionally and spiritually.  I need to be clean or clear minded to do that in an effective way for them.  

I am trying to keep my house in order, putting away dishes, cleaning bathrooms, washing sheets and towels way too often.  Washing clothes and dishes everyday to provide an appearance of a clean and less chaotic environment.  As I do these chores I continue to ask myself, how will you strive to keep your mind and body clean during and after this time?  Well, if I am going to put this much effort and sweat into keeping my house clean, I most definitely need to keep myself sober.  There really is no difference, as I write this entry I am cleaning my thoughts and changing my outlook about myself and my drinking. Learning how to clean up the thoughts, actions that keep me stuck in that mess.  It is truly time to roll up my sleeves and get down on my hands and knees and clean up me and my approach to living a much better life.

How will you rise up and be the best mom you can right now, and be able to hold up over this long stretch of time to enable your family and yourself to thrive? Well, let’s start by not isolating or numbing to the point I can’t remember things.  Breathe through the news everyday, or maybe just turn it off entirely.  Engage with my kids, talk to them about everything that is going on, answer their questions and more importantly comfort them, now more than ever.  Be present for them, help them with their new normal of school work from home, help them adjust to very little interaction with friends, and teach them to be good to each other and others in this very strange time.

I can’t say I have all the answers but little things are shifting for me now more than ever.  Not only caring more about making sure the house is clean and organized, but thinking about the reasons I would drink and deriving a plan for not drinking as things seem to cave in on me.  I am making mental plans for myself, physical plans as well, about how I will move my body more, making choices to spend time with my family versus numbing out to the point of black out and forgetting everything from the night before.  That will not make it better, only worse, as the anxiety and guilty takes over with no where for it or me to go.  I won’t lie my anxiety is very high right now and I have tremendous trouble sleeping but I working the plan to help me sleep like less screen time before bed, eating dinner earlier, mediation before bed as well.  I know these things work because when I have used them in the past and stuck with them for long periods of time I sleep much better and I feel much better.  

Cleaning everyday, is the new normal for me, just as working more solidly on my sobriety is my new normal. They go hand in hand, as a two prong plan.  The more I clean up the outside, I am cleaning up the inside. 

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.

The Art of Stop, Not Stopping

It is funny to me, but not in a funny haha way, why trying to stop drinking is and has been so hard.  I understand the addict part of it and the fact it is a diversion mechanism but still why is it so hard.  I guess the saying is true old habits die hard.  There have been so many times I have said to myself, “stop, what are you doing?” or “just stop what is your problem?”  I really can’t say why I continued to make an art out of not stopping but I am finally doing the digging to get to the bottom of it.  

In the current times, which are quite strange, one would think we need to be as clear and as present as possible.  Be ready to make good choices, and be present to keep our kids strong, healthy and not afraid, during these very uncertain times that are very strange to say the least.  But yet the cycle continued. For me, I call it the art of stop, not stopping, because I would come up with a million reasons why I still needed to drink or pretended why I was not stopping.  I continue to use my inner voice and my writing to train my brain and propel myself forward to learn new paths, but some how I typically ended up back on the path of stop, not stopping.

I really can’t say it is a cyclic thing, but then again maybe it is and I just don’t see it that way.  If I break it down, it starts with the voice inside telling me to stop, clean up your act.  Then rationalizing why this so hard or why it is ok to continue to drink, even when I see the progression and the absolute pursuit of numbing out to blacking out.  I am so tired of not remembering things the next day or being worried I was a bitch the night before in some drunken swirl again.  

So what makes up the art of stop, not stopping?

For me it is denial, shame, unhappiness, depression and inadequacy, that I believe creates the perfect canvas for my art of stop, not stopping.  I can name any one or more of these contributors and bring them to the forefront so that I will isolate, numb out and dissolve into nothing so that I don’t have to deal with life or the reality of the day, whatever day that may be.  My art of not stopping is one of mastering the ways of avoidance, shaping shifting and disillusionment and so begins the subtle pop of the cork, the very specific placement the bottle out of sight, the casual refill after refill and all the while slipping away. 

For me the art of stop, not stopping drinking is was wall.   I could get close to the wall, I could even at times get up the wall and stand on top of the wall but then I would fall right back down on the same side of the wall.  I believe in order to change the art of stop, not stopping I need to break through the wall. That my friends will be the key to the art of stopping for me! It is working so far but many you just don’t know how many times I kept trying to climb that wall!