The Simple Life

It’s amazing to me how much I truly enjoy the simpler things in life now.  I spent most of my life looking for the next “party”….and by “party” I mean anything FUN or new.  I know now that I was looking for distraction because contentment was no longer in my vocabulary.  I wanted to stay busy, but the thing is you can’t out run yourself.  On the days my mind, body and soul just couldn’t keep up I felt sad, empty and very worthless.  Drinking was a huge distraction and in my mind it always would bring the fun factor, at least at the beginning.

When I quit drinking I knew that I needed to heal (I had no idea how much healing needed to happen yet though!!), I knew it was going to take time and I also knew that I was going to have a lot of free time on my hands.  So I got to work thinking I was going to have to fill every waking moment with something but quickly realized that what I really enjoyed was very simple things and not having a full day of activities planned.  I found that quality time with the Lord every morning, quiet nights, long walks, good books and SLEEP were exactly what I needed and even truly wanted and still do.

 

 

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Cooking

When I think about my drinking journey I often think about when my social drinking switched to at home drinking and then ultimately daily drinking.  Like EVERYTHING with alcohol, it was a progression and it started in my kitchen. 

My love for cooking began around the same time I started bringing wine into my home.  Before then we only had alcohol in the house if we were entertaining or for a holiday, so pouring a glass of wine on a random Tuesday night just didn’t happen……until it did.

 I began watching cooking shows and experimenting with fun recipes.  I soon found that I really enjoyed cooking……a lot!  The chefs on TV often had a glass of wine beside them and I thought, why not?!  It seemed fancy and cool.  It started very innocently:  cooking, soft jazz, a glass of wine, but like most drinking stories, the amounts of wine increased as well as the number of evenings and viola….it became an every night thing.

 Cooking was a HUGE trigger for me for the first month of sobriety so I knew the 5:00 hour was going to be tricky.  I still had a family to feed so I had to get creative.  I found a few ways to avoid or distract during the kitchen/cooking/wine time that I found to be helpful .

·     I started using my crockpot.  A whole meal, one pot and you can start earlier in the day.

·     I made dinner at lunchtime.

·     We ate out more.

·     I would prep everything in the morning so it would be quick to throw together.

·     I drank a gingerale while I cooked.  I would only drink it at that time so it was a treat and the fizz helped.

·     I watched my favorite TV show while cooking instead of the music.  The show was distracting and funny so it helped make the time go by quicker.

·     We ate dinner early and did other things in the evenings like watch TV, go out for ice cream, play a game, read, etc.

Eventually I realized I was cooking and no longer even thought of wine.  It didn’t even cross my mind anymore.  It took deliberate action at first but God helped me and gave me many tools along the way!  It’s funny what they say that it takes about 30 days to learn a new habit or break an old one and that really is about how long it took to get used to a new evening routine.  I’m so thankful that God not only forgives (old routine) but also RESTORES (new routine).

Why did this time work?

Second to “why did you quit” is always “how did you quit“?!

Why, when I chose to quit drinking over a year and a half ago, did it stick?  Why was this time different than the last time or all the many times before?  Good question.

Well, I have a couple ideas on that.  I think before it could finally click a few things had to happen first.

I needed to fail.

 I had to crash and burn a few times on the moderation train.  I had to try moderation in several ways (only drink on weekends, only drink when we go out, no more than two  drinks, switch to a something other than wine, etc.) and FAIL at ALL of them EVERY time so I would not be able to have a few months under my belt and think all is good.  That happened one time after I had not had a drink in two months and I found myself at a restaurant looking at the wine list.  I sat there thinking to myself “I clearly did NOT have a problem with alcohol.  If I truly have a drinking problem, if I really was drinking alcoholically, I wouldn’t be able to stop for even one day much less two months”!  That evening I drank a bottle of wine and continued the on again off again cycle for another 9 months.  I needed that experience, it wasn’t pretty, but I needed it.

I needed a plan.

By this point (6 years) I had read several recovery books, followed many blogs and started listening to a podcast that helped me beyond measure, called The Bubble Hour.  The Bubble Hour concept is all about having a plan, more like a comfort plan, for the early days/weeks of sobriety which turn into a self care plan for the weeks and years to come.  Picture in your mind a big virtual bubble that you go in to with all of your favorite things to hide from the boozy world!   My bubble included my favorite warm blanket, ice cream, sobriety books, mindless TV, sappy movies, peanut M&Ms, diet ginger ale, fuzzy pajamas, etc.  Even now, when I feel overwhelmed or out of sorts I will retreat to my bubble and get myself together.  It is all about learning how to be cope, be comfortable and find contentment again without the numbing of wine.  I am still so shocked at how happy I am with the simplest of things now!  When you spend so much time and energy numbing out the bad (and good) you lose sight on how to feel and process.  This just helps you find a cozy place to just be okay.

I needed support. 

My husband has been beyond supportive.  He is my biggest fan and celebrates every sober milestone I achieve.  I also have great support from my family and a few trusted friends.  The support also serves as accountability.  I don’t want to let myself down and I for sure don’t want to let them down.  Telling a few people who I know love me, want the best for me and are committed to pray for me is life changing.  Everything in me wants to keep my life, especially this part of my life, to myself.  I have found that as I slowly open up it has allowed me an opportunity to help others with similar struggles.  When you feel like you are helping someone else stay on track it teleports you into a whole different level of strength and determination.  Support received and support given are equally essential in my recovery.

These three experiences and tools have been super helpful.  I still need the memories of failure, the support of loved ones and the peace of structure and comfort to get me through every day.  They were all stepping stones of importance and they all had their place.  Looking back I can see that my God devised a way to bring me back to him.  Every time I failed and got back up he gave me a new tool to use until it finally worked!

But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.

2 Samuel 14:14b

My Why

“Lord, help”!  They cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.  He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; he snapped their chains.  Let them praise the Lord for this great love and the wonderful things He has done for them.”     Psalms 107:13-15

For me, the answer to “why did you stop drinking” is simple.  I got to the point where continuing to drink and feel absolutely miserable about myself was harder than facing life without alcohol forever.  I was done.

Getting to this point (being done) was years in the making.  I suffered horrible anxiety and while the wine did help for a bit while drinking it at night, the anxiety was so much worse the next day. It would start with a panic attack at about 3am and move to self loathing, guilt and shame that would last throughout the day until about 3pm where I would then begin the battle of the wine, should I or shouldn’t I, knowing deep down which side would win.  I was on an absolutely sick and vicious cycle.

Until I had a few months of sobriety behind me I didn’t even realize how sad my life had become.  I was completely self-absorbed in my own head.  I just simply existed.  What a joy was I?!  I know I thought I did a fairly good job hiding this mess from the world, but my drinking affected the ones I love the most and that will always be a deep regret.  Most people have NO CLUE that I was drinking a bottle of wine (or more..ugh!) per night.  I was killing myself trying to over compensate for my behavior, especially in the Mom department.  I volunteered, drove carpool, was room Mom and team Mom, attended bible study and sat in church like a good Christian girl should, but in the middle of the night my two worlds would collide and I was tortured, literally tortured.  I was so convicted about my behavior.  Shame would come over me like a dark wave and I would feel a very dark and terrifying sadness.

EVERY.  SINGLE.  NIGHT.

For the longest time I thought God was the one torturing me.  I felt like He was angry and disappointed and this agonizing anxiety was my punishment.  I was so wrong.  I was doing this to myself.  In fact, as soon as I stopped drinking this nightly torture session ended…….immediately.  I was feeling convicted because I knew what I was doing was wrong and by continuing to do it I was giving Satan open access into my life.  I do believe the Lord was able to use my tortured mind to help me once and for all stop, but not because He was mad, but because He loves me.  How sad He must have been to see me, his beloved child, so scared and unhappy.  I went for years waking up at 3am feeling like this.  It was insanity.  My reward now (one of MANY rewards), that the Lord has blessed me with for being sober is that I sleep like a baby.  I mean good, deep, healing sleep!

600 days

Yesterday I celebrated 600 days of living alcohol free and woke up to a very special and thoughtful surprise. I love donuts but rarely eat them, and my handsome husband had this waiting for me when I got up early this morning. He actually got up at 4am to make sure it would be ready before I got up. He is my number one fan and my biggest support. I know I wouldn’t be celebrating 600 days without him helping me along because there have been many days I wanted to give up and give in, like two nights ago.

600 days

This past week has actually been a pretty tough week. I have been emotional, angry and pretty much a hot mess. I have had some tough days here and there but this had lasted a bit longer and it worried me. I thought that these feelings had come out of nowhere but in retrospect I can see that I had been progressively letting my thinking go down a dark and delusional path about what I thought I was missing out on, how hard certain social situations are, and how EVERYONE drinks but me and I am a boring loser. Needless to say as the days of this crazy thinking went on I grew more and more bitter.

This all came to a head two nights ago while my husband and I were on a nice date night and I was full of venom and resentment. I was being obnoxious and I knew it but I didn’t care because for some reason earlier that evening I had been suddenly consumed with the notion of going to a swanky bar and having a glass of wine, like I used to do on Saturday nights. Finally my very patient husband had me talk it out and I realized what was going on. I knew deep down that I really didn’t want to go to a bar, I was just in a really bad state. After our talk I felt a little better because I had some insight on my negative thinking and I knew I needed God’s help to change my thoughts. As we drove to the restaurant I began to pray. At first it was through gritted teeth thanking Him for 599 days of sobriety and as I continued I felt my insides start to calm down and soften. I then thanked Him for changing my life, I thanked Him for the kind man beside me who loves and was trying to make me laugh and I thanked Him that I don’t deal with these intense feelings very often and that I knew He would allow it to pass and it did.

Often times, when I am in a spin cycle of “I feel bad and I don’t know why” it is because I have been mindlessly letting my thoughts go down the road of what I can’t or don’t have and not on what I can and do have! I remember the first time I started studying about mindset and what God means by “renewing our minds” (Romans 12:2).  I read Joyce Meyer’s book called The Battlefield of the Mind.  One of the things she talked about was praying God’s truth and promises, being thankful and trusting that God will change your heart to match your words.  That is what I did Saturday night on the way to the restaurant and God did soften my heart. Unfortunately it took most of the week of wrestling with this to get to that point.  Ughh, I am a slow learner!!!

By the time we reached the restaurant I felt better and my heart matched my words. I went to bed with a clear head and woke up to not only a hangover free morning but also to a very sweet surprise. I am thankful for the love and grace shown by both my Heavenly Father and my husband that night because even though I didn’t deserve their love and grace, neither God or my husband held a grudge on my crummy behavior AND they both were very happy to celebrate with me yesterday in a very special way!

 

My Day 1

My Day 1 was 596 days ago.  I had a few true heart-felt Day 1 attempts under my belt over about a 12 month period before this day.  All of which came after a heavy nights of drinking (which was becoming more and more often).  This Day 1 had come after 2 of these recent attempts over a 3 month period.  I knew I was losing the moderation battle.

I woke up at 4am with paralyzing anxiety, again.  I felt incredibly shameful because I had gone a few weeks without drinking and thought I was doing so good.  It scared me quite a bit that I had “slipped up” again after being so confident that I was for sure done!

Well, I say “slipped up”, but was it really?!  I mean I drove myself to the store, picked out the wine, stood in line to purchase the wine……you get the point!  There was a lot of time to change my mind.  It didn’t happen by accident.  Especially when you consider the 4-5 hours I spent arguing with myself before I even left for the store!!  

Should I get some wine tonight, no I shouldn’t, well I haven’t had any in 2 weeks so I don’t really have a problem” and on an on!!  

Clearly now I can see that it was the Holy Spirit working over time to protect me from yet another bad decision, another bad night, another day of horrible anxiety, another day(s) of feeling worthless and shameful.    Honestly, the fact that I was even at the point that I was counting the days I didn’t drink was a huge red flag and by the grace of God 596 days ago I saw that flag and it got my attention.

I am certain that because I have such an amazing support in my husband that I was able to ditch the wine time for good!  It was very rocky at the beginning.  I literally began this journey 3 weeks before the holiday season.  Cooking Thanksgiving dinner without wine sounded absurd, BUT I DID IT!!!  In fact, I ‘ve now done it twice and it was wonderful.  I can honestly say that we had one of the BEST holiday seasons ever my first year of sobriety.  I had tons of energy and was fully present in every way.  Many wonderful memories were made and I now look at it as a gift from God to keep me motivated to continue.  

The Beginning

It was an ordinary day, I’m sure.  Do I remember the date or what was exactly going on that day?  No, I don’t really, but I remember very clearly the “tug” that was starting to brew deep in my soul.  I was reading a short devotional that I read every morning.  It usually had one verse and a very short life application explanation.  I liked it because it was quick and fulfilled a “quiet time” check on my to-do list (sad but true).  This particular morning the verse read:

“Restore in me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you.”       Psalm 51:12

 

Two words jumped off the page, JOY and OBEY.  I knew I didn’t have joy in my life and I knew I wasn’t obeying God.  In fact, I was on a very vicious cycle of joyless-ness and disobedience.  I was a woman in need of God’s emotional and physical healing (joyless), but I chose to self medicate myself by drinking wine, and lots of it (disobedience).  As I read that verse I knew without a doubt in my mind that I was sabotaging my life and I needed to do something about it.  I would love to say that was also the day I totally removed alcohol from my life to never return to it but unfortunately that day didn’t come for a few more years on November 8, 2016. 

My journey began one morning when I woke up and decided enough was enough.  It HAD to start with putting the wine glass down.  I didn’t have a “rock bottom”, but I was extremely depressed, anxious, discontent and just plain miserable.  I can see now that God was using my emotional unrest to get my attention. 

The healing has truly been, and will continue to be, a slow process.  I had no idea what was in store that November morning.  I believed with all of my heart that if I just stopped drinking ALL my problems would go away and iron out immediately.  A part of that is true, but there was so many layers that needed to be peeled away.  I just didn’t realize how much I was numbing my life, the bad times and the good times.  

So, here I am, 590 days later and I don’t regret it for a minute.  The peace with God, the peace in my home, the peace in my everyday life is invaluable to me.  I am so incredibly grateful that God heard my desperate prayers in the midst of my rebellion.