My Favorite Thoughts For Today! One Year, Part Four

And now for my favorite and most fun entry of my one-year posts.

I love thinking about today and all that it means and all the fun sayings there are about today.

My blog is named “Viatoday,” a word I made up, because Via to me means “on the way” and everyday, I feel like “Today, I am on my way.”   I have also come to really like my self-given nickname Via.

Some of my favorite quotes and phrases about today, all of which I think I have included somewhere in this blog:

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”  This was one of my Dad’s favorites!  It is so true!

He also liked to say, “Live every day like it is your last.”  And, “Live for today.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed.”

My kids love these fun head-scratchers: “Today is yesterday’s tomorrow.  And today is tomorrow’s yesterday.”

And finally, here’s my favorite:

“Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is a gift.  And that is why they call it ‘the present’!”

So on this fun note, I am going to keep taking it all one day at a time.  Happy Today everyone!

 

 

 

What Have I Learned So Far? One Year, Part Three

I have been reflecting a lot in the past few weeks – so much so that I had to break my one-year blog entry into 4 posts!  My last post had a more glum tone, so this one will be more positive:  Now that I have reached one year, what have I learned?  What have I gained?  Here’s a few random thoughts put into a list:

1.  I really like myself again.  I have that confidence back that I am funny and smart and caring.  I know again that I am a good person.  I am not perfect and that is OK.  If I make mistakes, there is always an opportunity to learn from them.   “Do the next right thing” is a great slogan.

2. “Fake it till you make it” made me laugh the first time I heard it on The Bubble Hour.  But it really works!  Over time, my favorite line to people who inquired about my not drinking was, “Oh, I have discovered I am more fun without drinking.”  And as it turns out, I am more fun without drinking!  It’s true!

3.  I take better care of myself.  I really love yoga.   And I really love hot showers.  Getting enough sleep, exercising, eating right, and showering earlier in the day makes my day better.  I am trying to meditate more.  I started therapy.  I get pedicures when I need some extra pampering.  And I have learned that taking better care of myself is better for my whole family and is not selfish.

4.  “Sleeping is one my talents” has been a joke of mine for a long time. I really do love sleep.  And I am good at it!  I do not do well with sleep deprivation.  When my kids were babies, the sleep deprivation was the hardest part.  When my youngest started sleeping through the night, it was a joyous occasion.  I regret ruining my sleep with alcohol for the years just before I quit drinking.  How could I do that to my precious sleep?  I am so happy now that I am able to put my head down on my pillow every night with full awareness that I have completed my day and it is time to go to sleep.  And I sleep so soundly again.  (Apparently I snore a lot too now per my husband).

5.  My skin is clearer.  And when I look at pictures of myself, my smile is wider and my green eyes are brighter.  My laugh is hearty and boisterous again.

6.  I am able now to address and work on a lot of underlying issues I had and was avoiding – the grief I carry, anxiety in certain situations, insecurities about being a stay at home mom, my tendency to procrastinate and avoid certain tasks until things really piled up and then seemed too overwhelming to tackle.  I am developing with my therapist strategies to deal with all of these things.  I am also learning so much from the podcasts of Tara Brach.

7.  I am loving love again.  I look at my husband again with the same attraction I did 20 years ago.  He is so cute!  At various moments, I find myself just staring at my kids while feeling so lucky they are mine.  I hang on my own mom’s words and her voice so often now when we are the phone.   I love seeing her smile when she is with her grandchildren.

8.  I am experiencing gratitude.  Being part of a Gratitude Group has been monumental.    I am so very grateful every day to have a loving husband and three healthy kids.  I am grateful for our relatives and friends.  I am grateful for this amazing life.

9.  I am less reactive and more proactive.  For example, I don’t panic when it is crunch time in the mornings and we need to get out the door.  I stay calm and it helps my kids stay calm.  Gone are the days when they enter the school building and I stand in the schoolyard with tears welling up because I am full of regret.

10.  I am better at time management and planning out my day (still an area that I am working on though).   Also, I have come to appreciate that being punctual is an amazing thing that can really reduce anxiety!  And it is considerate.

11. I have learned the amazing power of saying no.  I have realized we do not have to accept invitations to every birthday party or other event we are invited to.  It is ok to politely decline.  And just because I am a stay at home mom does not mean I should feel obligated to sign up for every volunteer opportunity at school.  I have learned it is perfectly fine to say no to a volunteer request and not feel guilty about it.

11.  I worry much less about what other people think in many areas, and most relevant here, in regard to me not drinking.  I have learned (and this is one I really had to learn through my own experience instead of taking other bloggers’ word on this) that 99% of people really do not notice and do not care what I am drinking.  They very happily accept whatever pat answer I give in declining a drink.   Or they simply don’t ask and it does not come up.

12.  I am more present.  I am in tune with the goings-on in my extended family without being absorbed by any drama.  I am less distracted.  I feel more connected with loved ones.  I listen better when other people talk.  When my kids are talking to me, I try to look into their eyes and listen to what they have to say.  I make sure I hug them every day.  I don’t even want to think about the time in the future when they are no longer living in the same house as me.  So I am going to make sure I do not take it for granted now.  Making sure I am truly present for them, and my husband, for as long as possible, is my primary goal.

13.  Kindness is powerful. Random acts of kindness and simply being friendly make others more cherry and myself.  Also, instead of getting irritated in certain situations, responding with kindness, compassion, and understanding has been magical.  If I do get irritable or say something I regret, apologizing is also very powerful.

14.  I make sure I get girlfriend time through breakfasts,  lunches, walks or coffee.  While I isolated a lot in the first few months, I now again love spending time with friends when I can.  It’s very important to me.  I also make time for other leisure activities like reading.

15.  Communicating better with my husband has been so important.  I am being honest with him about what I am feeling inside and as of Sunday, Mother’s Day, I filled him on all I have done and all my online tools I have used to get to one year.  He generally knew I was getting support online but now he knows the details of the support I was getting.  I felt relieved to fill him more on this journey because to him and others, it may seem like it has been easy.  And it has not been easy at all.   But it has been so worth it.  And he told me he is proud of me.

16.  I have learned that life is not perfect.  It is unpredictable.  A great deal is out of our control.  All we have for sure is love and today, this moment.  Death is part of life.  Disappointment is part of life.  There are ups and there are downs.  Some days are better than others.  For some reason, it has taken me 44 years to accept all of this!

My word of the year is Growth.  I think I am doing so mentally and spiritually.  (Incidentally, after increasing, and then decreasing, my weight is now pretty much exactly the same as this time last year; so at least I am not growing in that area!  But it would have been nice to drop 5 pounds in my Year 1.  Oh, well – that can be a goal for Year 2!).

Why Did I Quit? One Year, Part Two

Earlier I talked about the two primary keys for me to reaching a year without alcohol: 1) taking one day at a time; and 2) having someone to report to every day that I was not drinking.  Here I want to talk more about why I am doing this.

Looking back on my earliest blog entries, deciding to remove alcohol from my life was part of a larger plan to live a healthier life.  Why?  I want to live as long as possible.  I want to watch my children get older and hopefully meet my grandchildren.  If I die young, before this happens, I do not want it to be because of alcohol – simply put.  I don’t want to die an accidental death because I was intoxicated.  Nor do I want to die a death caused by organs damaged by years of alcohol use.  And while I could certainly eat better and exercise more, two areas I am also striving to improve in, taking alcohol out of the equation finally made so much sense to me.  And it still makes a ton of sense to me.

In my March entry here, I talked about how I was getting really scared.  Alcoholism is a problem in my family.  Was this really happening to me?  How did I reach the point where I was drinking wine on a daily basis?

For probably 4 years prior to last May (it’s hard to pinpoint when it became a daily habit), I was drinking wine pretty much every night.   Why?  I have been asking myself this a lot the last few months.  How did it it come to that?  I think I was drinking wine nightly for various reasons at various times:  1) as a reward for all that I may have accomplished that day; 2) because it had become part of my routine, a habit seemingly harmless at first to have a glass of wine with dinner, and then a few to follow; 3) to attempt to relieve worry and stress; 4) to avoid thinking about all that I had to do the next day; 5) to drown an underlying sadness in me which had grown in recent years because I and people I love had suffered some tragic losses.  I am a very empathetic person, and losing my Dad at a young age, led me to really feel for others when they suffered great losses in their families.  And in late 2012, I lost someone too – someone I was very close with – and it shook me to the core.  I still find it hard to accept his death.  I am working on this but it is very hard.  If I ever started AA, he would be my Higher Power.

In the past year before I quit drinking though, the hangovers were really getting worse.  My headaches and upset stomach were really affecting my productivity the following day.  My sleep was not sound.  I was losing patience with my kids in the mornings and they could not understand why.  For the first time in my life, I was starting to really dislike myself.  And I started to feel like I was not being honest with family and friends.  Nobody knew I drank every day except my husband.  I had a growing feeling of doom in my gut.  I felt alone, until I discovered the sober blogs I mentioned.  And then, last April and May, despite the faltering in April and early May, which also taught that this was going to be hard,  I also started to feel optimistic.  Maybe I could do this, like Unpickled, Mrs. D, and Belle.  I related so much to them.  And I honestly felt like my Dad, and my other loved ones in heaven were talking to me, telling me it was time.

Something had to be changed.  I needed to stop this pattern or it was going to end badly.   I can’t recall where I read it, perhaps at the Soberistas blog, but somewhere I read about “deal-breaker moments” and never wanting to repeat certain episodes that one most regretted.  I started thinking about deal-breaker moments.  I have several of those.  But I narrowed them down to 3 for myself.  When times are toughest for me, and I really want to have a glass of wine, I think about 1, 2 or all 3 “deal-breaker episodes.” I have not been able to bring myself to write about them here; but they are engrained in my heart and mind.  Really, they are typical drinking/blackout stories, but I know they could have ended very badly with me dying.  And I cannot imagine leaving my husband and kids that way, dying because I drank too much wine.  So in times of my greatest temptations in the past year, thinking about the deal-breaker moments has kept me from picking up a drink again.

I know this entry is pretty glum but I felt the desire to write it.  I was scared and that motivated me.  I decided to address this problem, and I am grateful that I would be probably be categorized as having a high bottom.  I am grateful I stopped when I did one year ago.

 

 

365 Days Alcohol Free – One Day at a Time

One Year 365 Days!  I did it. This is a screenshot of my day counter app.  In the beginning, I referred to my counter app all the time, and recently, not as much.  Today I wanted to always remember what it looked like on May 12, 2015.

For the past week, I have been trying to outline in my head the profound one-year journal entry I had hoped to post here, which would be full of wisdom and insight, to help me in the future on tough days, and to help others.  But my thoughts have been everywhere, and they are not flowing in a very organized fashion.  So, even though I have not posted since around Day 300, I am going to make several posts this mid-May, until I can satisfactorily cover all that I am feeling and thinking as I hit one year.

I look forward to sharing here in these entries to come what really worked for me, what I did on the toughest days, what I have learned in Year 1, and what I hope and plan to do going forward.

Yahoo!  I did it – one year!  OK – thanks – I had to get that little celebration out! Last March and April, I had many stops and starts.

In early April 2014, I started reading excerpts from some books (Unsmashed and Dry) and I also Googled “moms and drinking” or something to that effect.  On April 2, 2014, I discovered Unpickled‘s blog.  I was fascinated and so relieved that somebody else, a mom, was out there who had been struggling with a wine habit and had successfully quit.  And she had blogged about it since March 2011.  So there were three years of entries there as of April 2014, which I read in one sitting.  Next I discovered Mrs. D‘s blog, who like me was a stay at home mom with three young kids at home, and Belle’s blog.  I was fascinated and mesmerized and inspired.

I decided on April 2 I was done.  That lasted a few days.   Then April 16 was my next Day 1.  That lasted a few more days until Easter (April 20).  The next few days did not go so well.  April 27 was my next Day 1.  I made it all the way until Mother’s Day weekend when I convinced myself I deserved a drink.   All the while though, during the month of April and early May, I was reading and discovering more and more blogs.  People were so kind and supportive of each other.  And I learned what the 100 Day Challenge was.  Could that be real, that a woman named Belle (Tired of Thinking About Drinking) would keep count for you, and be your sober pen-pal, no strings attached?  And her whole premise, and so much of what I read, stressed “one day at a time” as the key to sobriety.

So what was different about when I decided again on May 12, 2014, that it was my last day of drinking?  Why did it work that time when I failed the prior times?  Here are the reasons it worked: 1) taking one day at a time; and 2) not trying to do it alone any more.

This time, I reached out to Belle, and asked if I could sign up for the 100 Day Challenge.  When I got my spot, I took the pledge.  That gave me accountability.  I followed her advice: 1) that I would email her every day that I was alcohol-free that day; and 2) that I would just focus on today, every day.  The goal in the beginning was 100 Days and then we could see what happened.

I also started to comment on the BFB and other blogs instead of just lurking.  Interacting with others online was huge for me.  And I started this blog.  Even though I was too nervous to make it public at first, it helped to write.  And when I opened the blog publicly, it also really helped to get supportive comments.  I also directly emailed another person who I saw commenting on a lot of the same blogs and the BFB.  She responded and we are still in touch regularly.  Having a direct connection with someone else really helped.  So now I had Belle and I had another friend I had “met.”

Slowly but surely, the days on my app were getting higher in number.  And drawing from the wisdom of my resources, I kept telling myself, “Stay here at today, one day at a time.  I will not drink today.”  I read a ton also – my two favorite books on the topics of women and wine -“Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol” and “Mrs. D is Going Without.”

Another blog that was very instrumental for me was the 6yearhangover blog.  He reached a year in April so I am just a few weeks behind him.  It really helped me to read and comment on a blog whose days were close in time to mine.  Plus, his blog made me laugh at loud in May and June, when my mood was pretty low most days, and it was taking everything in me some nights not to cave and have a glass of wine. The best cure for those nightly cravings was to read a blog entry, or a chapter from one of the aforementioned books, and go to bed!

In the summer, John at 6yearhangover offered to start a Gratitude Group for some of his readers.  He was in one already and it was working so he offered to get another group up and running (purely out of the kindness of his heart) for his readers.  I am so glad I responded that I wanted to be included.   He set up the group and helped us come up with guidelines.  In the group, we post daily our gratitudes – another hugely important tool for me – and now 9 months later, I have a solid group of online friends who really understand what I am going through.

In the beginning, I faithfully emailed Belle as promised for the first 100 Days, and then the next 80 Days.   After I got to 180, I had to decide, if I wanted to keep going.  By then I had such a good thing going with my Gratitude Group that I could not imagine dropping out.  And I was really liking how I was feeling!  More on that tomorrow, but I was getting hooked on not drinking!  So I pledged to 365 Days.  And I took the holidays one day at a time and every day since.

In mid-January, I was feeling like I really needed to talk with someone in person other than my husband.  I started to see a therapist.  That has been, for lack of a better word, so therapeutic, for me.  I have not held back with her – I have been honest about everything.  We are really digging deep.  It is so good for me.

I also regularly listen to podcasts, including countless hours of The Bubble Hour.  I laugh along with the hosts and their casual manner makes me feel like I am on the phone with them.  Listening to Tara Brach, suggested by Mrs. D., has been so helpful.  And I joined Mrs. D’s Living Sober site when it was launched.

While I have looked up meeting schedules for AA and Smart Recovery many times, to date, I have not gone to any recovery meetings, except for one which I went to in support of a relative in the summer of 2012.  I can definitely see myself going to meetings in the future.  One of my favorite blogs now is The Miracle Is Around the Corner, and I always look forward to reading Josie’s summary of her Monday meeting that she chairs. Finding a few good meetings to attend, and perhaps working the 12 steps, or working through the principles of Smart Recovery, is something I am seriously considering as I enter Year 2.

I will need to keep my motivation strong.  And I have learned in the past year this was too hard for me to do alone.  Reaching out and interacting with others tipped the scale in my favor.  It gave me accountability and support.  And I’ll never forget what my relative told me way back in the summer 2012.  He said, “They say if you can stay sober for one year, it will change your life.”

I have taken one day at a time, and relied on the kindness of strangers for support, and I am now at a year.  And I feel like my life, how I feel about myself mainly, has changed very much so for the better.  My future is so much brighter.  I will go into more detail on these points in my next post.

This post – the intended takeaways are:  taking one day at a time and reaching out for support were the difference makers for me after May 12, 2014.  365 Days since my original post, I am posting here again on May 12, one year later, and I am so grateful.