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!).

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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.

Saturday Celebration Roundup

I am reblogging to capture in my blog Belle’s post mentioning my Day 300. Congrats to all those who hit milestones! Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart, Belle and your apprentices for keeping track and celebrating with us! We love seeing our “names” in “lights”!

Tired of Thinking About Drinking

Happy Day 50 to Bizi!

Happy Day 50 to Trixie!

Happy Day 50 to Jo!

Happy Day 50 to Mamahope!

Happy Day 50 to tamtam!

Happy Day 50 to Auds!

Happy Day 50 to Haleakala!

Happy Day 50 to Sweet-Tea!

Happy Day 50 to Acosborne!

Happy Day 50 to Colorado_kate!

Happy Day 50 to Sacha!

Happy Day 50 to KKPW!

Happy Day 50 to TT!

Happy Day 61 to 1035!

Happy Day 62 to Nontu!

Happy Day 70 to MoMaH!

Happy Day 100 to Imbak!

Happy Day 100 to Tewks!

Happy Day 100 to Jennetic!

Happy Day 100 to Debs!

Happy Day 100 to Southern Magnolia 1013!

Happy Day 100 to Rock2015!

Happy Day 100 to Bean!

Happy Day 100 to Liza!

Happy Day 180 to Magdalena Maria!

Happy Day 180 to Graceb!

Happy Day 180 to Bex!

Happy Day 180 to TB!

Happy Day 180 to Amberboo!

Happy Day…

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Ten Months: Progress Not Perfection

My last drink was May 12, 2014, ten months ago yesterday.  That night, I told my husband, after a few failed (not-so-serious) attempts in March, and three failed (serious) attempts in April, that this was it.  I was doing the 100-Day Challenge and I was going to stick with it.

I had realized once and for all that this not-drinking thing was really not so easy.  And this realization sunk in deep.  Honestly, it scared me.  I was starting to have such a sinking feeling.  I seriously really might have a problem I came to realize.  It felt like I had a rock in the pit of my stomach.

Alcoholism is in my family – mostly with men.  I have seen several men in my family die younger than they should have.  Was alcohol or addiction a contributing factor to their declining health and deaths?  Most likely yes.  But me, could this really be happening to be?  It couldn’t be happening to me; could it?  This was something that happened to the men in my family, not the women.  But it was happening to me, I knew deep-down.

I am a daughter, a sister, a mom, a former star student, college graduate, a professional turned a stay at home mom, who is a good citizen, fun friend, trusted confidant, and loyal family member.  I am one of “the ones” who is always there for other people, who reaches out or is reached out to, when my family, friends, loved ones need help or guidance or advice.  They look to me to be an example of how to navigate life with pride and confidence, how to be responsible and decisive, how to face hardships, and how to have fun again when the hardships are overcome.  (Or at least, that is what I think they think of me).  I probably should ask them at some point.

But going back to last May, without admitting it out loud, I was thinking deep down, “How did it come to be that I had this problem?  Did this just sneak up on me?  Or was I so oblivious and it was here all along?  Why did I think I was immune and that this could never happen to me?”  And I wondered who I could turn to to say, “Hey, I think I might have a problem.”

I couldn’t bring myself to talk with any of my loved ones about this except for my husband.  My husband lives with me so he knew how much wine I drank.  He knew about the stops and starts.  He knew this was a problem for me.  I finally realized it too.

So I turned to him  . . . and Belle  . . . . and sober blogs . . . and initially the BFB . . . until I was able to get into a smaller online gratitude group.  I started this blog under an anonymous name.  I don’t write here as often as I should, and even here, I find myself holding back.  I find myself doing what I do in real life, being upbeat and chipper and positive, and avoiding revealing the tougher emotions of being scared or worried or sad.  Why?  Because: 1) I don’t want to bother other people with my problems; and 2) I don’t want to admit that I have problems.

Recently, I started therapy and that is really helping.  It is helping me peel back the onion so to speak and dig deeper and be honest with myself.  It is helping me learn to recognize and start to deal with my underlying worries and fears and emotions.  I also love listening to Tara Brach’s audios.  They are amazingly enlightening and interesting.  It is like I had an initial waking up last Spring.  Now, I am realizing there is so much more to see about how and why I found myself in the position I was in last May.  I am ready to go there and try to figure it out.  I will likely not share it all here, but I will try to check in at least once a month. That is my goal at this point.  (And I am very grateful to those of you who read my blog and comment even though I have not posted very often or regularly).  And I know how much I gain from reading other’s blogs.

Since I last had a glass of wine, I have watched Spring turn to Summer; Summer turned to Fall; Fall turn to Winter; and Winter is turning to Spring again. Every season is trigger-y in a different way I have realized.  St. Patrick’s Day and baseball season are approaching very soon.  I am hoping my momentum will carry me through, just like I got through our skiing trip in the Winter, and my birthday in the Fall, and being by a lake in the Summer.   I had heard on the Bubble Hour the phrase “Fake it until you make it.”  And that actually works!  For example, I have used this line a few times – “Oh I stopped because I started to realized I am more fun without drinking.”  And I am actually truly starting to believe that now!  I think am probably more fun without drinking!

Now when I want a drink, it is mostly in the sad and challenging times.  But I have learned it is important to feel the feelings, and learn from them and not instinctively react to numb or avoid them.

I am writing today because I realized that it is 10 months since my Day 1, and I actually did not even realize it until 10 am!  For the neurotic day, week, month counter I have been, that was for some reason significant to me – to not even realize my 10-month anniversary was today until well into my day.

I guess that is progress in that I am not as obsessed with counting the days any more.  And now that I remembered I am at 10 months, I decided to ask myself, “How do you feel?”

Honestly, right now, I feel all over the place in this blog entry!  But I also feel content.  I am not overjoyed and I am not down in the dumps.  I feel like there has been progress, not perfection – another great phrase that has really proven true for me.

Taking away the alcohol did not solve all my problems or resolve all my worries.  But I am seeing a lot more clearly now, especially inward into myself.  I feel more in tune with myself.  I feel more honest with myself.  Progress not perfection.  That’s how I feel, and that’s OK.  One day at a time still for me.  I am on my way today.

Day 275

My numbers-brain is compelling me to write today.  I am on Day 275.  And I realized that means I am 90 days from 1 year without alcohol.  That is amazing to me. But then I have to tell myself, as I have so many times – don’t get ahead of yourself.  Take it one day at a time!  Such good advice from so many of you out there in the blogosphere! I just commented on a blog where the writer was frustrated asking for help in the process of giving up alcohol.  I commented that, in my experience, taking it one day at a time really does work.  And then the days add up. Over time, while some days are definitely tougher than others, it really does get easier.  Like last night, when I met two friends at a venue to listen to a cover band on a Tuesday night. Seven months ago, I would have turned down this invite.  Four months ago, I would have said yes, but would have been stressed and worried all day about how I would handle it when I was offered a drink and what they would think. Almost nine months in on this decision, (a decision I have not talked with either of these friends about personally), I was excited to go out and I knew I would not drink.  I figured I would deal with the conversation if it came up and it may not.  As  Tuesday progressed, I was getting more excited to be able to go out to see a band play – not a usual Tuesday for me by any means!  And I was excited to see my friends.  I have known them both my whole life and they are married now. This is how I handled the not-drinking thing.  It was not planned in advance by me.  But when I got there, I saw them at a table across the room.  I waved to my friends, and then went straight to the bar to get myself a tall glass of ginger ale.  Then I came over and put my glass down and hugged them and said hello.  My one friend had a glass of wine in front of her and her husband had a beer.  I asked if they were ready for anther drink and they said they were fine.  So that was it. I knew my friends would offer me a drink if I came to the table first, so I got my ginger ale first, and then came to the table.  This way, the topic of what I was drinking was not the first thing we discussed.  And in fact it never was discussed! The band played – it was dark – it was loud  – the music was awesome!  Between sets, we’d chat and laugh and had a great time.  A waitress came by to check on us occasionally.  At one point, I got a refill on my ginger-ale.  And I think they each ordered two more drinks. My friends probably noticed I was not drinking, but they did not comment or ask.  We had a great time.  And today, while I am more tired than usual on a Wednesday, I feel great about my decisions to go and have fun; to not drink while doing so; and to not make a big deal with them about my not-drinking. This is what worked for me last night and I felt like it was worth a post here.  I am reminded again that true friends really don’t care what is in your glass!  It’s a pretty awesome reminder at Day 275 of not drinking.

Growth

I love the “Word of the Year” idea.  My last post indicated I am not making any resolutions.  I have been thinking about what my “Word of the Year” would be, however.  Unlike specific resolutions, the idea of a “Word of the Year” seems a bit more broad, open-ended, adaptable to me.  After all, we’re talking about 12 full months!  I also liked when I read somewhere that you are allowed until January 31 to choose and change your word.  So I took my time in choosing my word.  I needed a word that would help me continue with what I started in 2014.  Around mid-month, I starting thinking about “Growth.”   A goal to keep growing in all the areas I am striving to improve might work, I thought!  I shared the idea of “Growth” with a few people so far, and I’ve gotten positive feedback.   I have joked with my kids, “It does not mean I want to get any bigger; I want to grow on the inside.”  It means I want to grow in lots of areas:  love, presence, awareness, gratitude, kindness, initiative, time management, self-care, and many other possible areas I am not thinking of at present.  I figure with “Growth,” there is always room for this list to grow!  So I am going with “Growth” in 2015. Today is also Day 260 of being alcohol-free.  In 40 Days (essentially equal to another Lent), I will be at Day 300.  That is part of how this alcohol-free journey started. Two years ago, I decided to give up wine for Lent – I made it about half way through.  Last year, I also decided to give up wine for Lent.  Again, I did not make it through, with lots of starts and stops throughout those 40 Days.  Finally, on May 12, 2014, three weeks after Easter, I had built my resolve and decided to go fully alcohol-free for 100 Days.  I joined Belle’s challenge and that worked!  I joined the 180 day Challenge, and then signed up for Team 365 after that.  And here I am at Day 260. My plan is to keep going, one day at a time.  I know now from personal experience, in addition to hearing this great advice early on, when you take one day a time, the days add up.  This year on Ash Wednesday (February 18), I could be at Day 282 (if I keep on going!).  On Easter, (April 5), I could be at Day 328 (if I keep on going!).  At that point, a year, 365 full days, would be in sight! But I am getting way ahead of myself. As I have also learned in the past 8 1/2 months, the days are going to pass whether I drink a glass of wine or not.  The world does not revolve around me.  And God is not going to grant me worry-free, stress-free days as a reward just because I stopped drinking.  In fact, I am going to have to deal with the worries and stress in other more mindful ways, without the escape of alcohol. Also, the thoughts do come sometimes.  “OK, after a year, you can stop this little exercise in will-power and go back to normal.”  No, I respond to myself.  Why is drinking so normal?  Who decided this?  And It seems like more than an exercise in will-power.  I am learning so much.  A gentler little voice sometimes tries to tell me, “After a year, it will be OK to have a glass of wine with friends every once in a while.  You can just continue to be alcohol-free at home.”  But so far, I have been able to push the voice away, and bring myself back to today. “I will not drink today. And, I will take one day a time.” Most times, when I don’t have these thoughts, I feel really good.  More often than not these days, I feel a peace inside of me, a warmth; I feel love and hope.  I also feel a motivation now to dig deeper and figure myself out more.  I feel a need in 2015 to learn more about myself.  So I will keep on going.  I will keep on growing.