You Are Not What Happened to You

My anxiety today went from code orange to code red, then zoomed right ahead to flashing sirens. Something happened that triggered unresolved trauma. It’s been horrible, the resurgence of panic and dread, as well as the sort of resigned feeling that I’ll probably never really feel safe again, that there’s always something lurking and waiting to get me.

I’m not trying to stuff it all down, which is huge progress. I didn’t drink my weight in wine whilst furiously drunk dialing everyone in a hysterical spiral.

I did my best to take care of myself instead. Because I finally learned that I’m not broken or unworthy. I have a story, and some of it is dark. That darkness doesn’t have to define me. The fear is my monster. The more I face the monster, the less power it has.

The monster is not me. Facing it down head on reminds me it is separate from me.

The day started great—productive and peaceful. It’s a classic gorgeous San Diego day and I got to Dog Beach with a f*cking amazing new friend, and attended a powerful and humbling support group meeting (you’re all invited, send a DM if you want to join us). And then the trigger. But not the usual crazy reaction—a healthy response! I called friends, I messaged my therapist. I blew off my other jobs on the list and took a lavender salts bath in candlelight, listening to guided meditation and doing loud, embarrassing-to-teens deep breathing. And I just told you what happened too, which took even more of the monster’s power away and separated what happened to me from who I am.

It’s hard sometimes, but true healing usually is. ❤️‍🩹

Thanks for being here, sober family. I’m more grateful than I can say.

Why I Drank, and What Happened

The links between why I drank and what happened as my drinking progressed matches this chart exactly.

I drank to cope: with anxiety (made it worse); a bad relationship (made it worse); work stress (worse); parenting stress (you get it).

The more I drank to cope, the worse care I took with myself. I only managed the bare minimum-clean clothes, basic hygiene, some kind of calories. Risks? Plenty. The worst of them was drinking and driving. I went to jail and everything. Work problems? See ‘jail’, above. I risked my professional license. I also was just phoning it in at work, and my job wouldn’t last long with me doing the bare minimum.

The other motive that fits my story is to “enhance” positive feelings. Basically, I read this as “to try to falsely create some.”

This is the one with binge drinking and blackouts and a primary outcome. This fits. If I’m trying to feel good (in other words, completely different to how I really feel), a slight warm relaxing feeling won’t suffice. But getting wasted, that’s more like it. Let’s dance. Ughhhhhh.

It helps me to work through some of my “whys” to fix what’s really wrong. It helps me to remember what happens when I think the fix for what’s really wrong is at the bottom of a bottle.

Happy Friday sober family! Keep it simple today.

**This is a very simplified snapshot of an NIH (National Institutes of Health) study from 2012, called “Motivational Pathways to Uniques Types of Alcohol Consequences.”

Just Staying Stopped

I swore to all that is good and holy that I was SO quitting (for the week, for 30 days, forever). Then again, sometimes I made myself a solemn vow to stop after two drinks. Three max. I’ll pour my own, thanks.

I was convinced I’d never be able to stop. I stopped drinking more times a year than it rains in Seattle.

That’s it, I thought. I’m doomed. Why would I keep trying something I OBVIOUSLY completely failed at?

Well I’ll tell you what. I ALWAYS had a loophole. An exception to the plan. A damn good reason to drink today, don’t worry about it. And, like, I didn’t announce it to people, stop lying, ask for help, go to meetings or anything that was such a big commitment. I had the books. I browsed the social media. I figured that was enough.

I liked the idea of abstinence but I didn’t want to commit all the way. Really I liked the idea of moderation and moderation is not in my wheelhouse. So I toyed with getting sober but only kind of; I thought of it as a last resort. And then kept telling myself I wasn’t anywhere near that stage in my drinking. I knew damn well I was chasing toward disaster like it was my destiny. And I didn’t want to give up my drug. I didn’t want to, in my heart. My soul was crying for help and my fear drowned those worries with another glass, or four.

Giving up alcohol wasn’t a punishment at all. It was a gift. I kept holding on to a burden. A soul sucker. When I remember the control I let booze have over me, I’m so glad I decided to not pick up a drink, today, no matter what.

And then I don’t have to keep going through the miserable cycle of half-ass quitting. It’s so much easier to just stay stopped.

Faking it

I kept up appearances quite well, even when I started drinking heavily. There were a couple slips of course (getting cuffed and hauled to county jail was not in line with my reputation, but you can be sure only my loved ones knew about that). When I felt embarrassed about getting sloppy drunk around certain people, I made sure I didn’t drink around those people anymore. It started getting easier just not to go out so much.

Most people were shocked when I ‘came out’ with my drinking problem. I’d practiced my whole life making sure other people saw me as a capable, intelligent leader. A problem solver. The emergency contact.

I didn’t bother to check in with myself after awhile. After I had kids, I told myself, “That’s what moms do. They put the kids first.” Never mind that I didn’t make time to eat, they have play dates at the park in 10. No problem! Off we go!

I was not emotionally secure. I drank more to try to calm my anxiety and get some sleep. I couldn’t fit yoga into the hectic schedule anymore (glug glug gulp). I skipped book club and walks with friends to say yes to more committees and meetings (chug, slam, repeat).

I’m so grateful that I finally (FINALLY) figured out that I don’t have to spend all my time and energy trying to please and impress other people. Oh, I’ve done the affirmations. I’ve read all about codependency. I could spot it in other people a mile away, and it gets me all fired up. I always want to shake someone accepting and enabling bad behavior. As a very wise sober sister casually said at a meeting last week: “If you spot it, you’ve got it.”

*Sigh*

Ladies and gentlemen. Here’s the truth. Putting everyone else’s needs above my own made me sick. I felt unhappy, fearful, and physically sick. Worry about my reputation almost turned to panic as I tried to juggle more and more while drinking more and more.

The ship was going down and I was polishing the brass.

if you’re unhappy with your relationship with alcohol, I have a suggestion. Don’t drink today. Go to bed sober, and see how you feel. If you got through it, doling it again. And reach out for support. You’re not alone.

People Pleasing and Binge Drinking

I. Introduction.

I’m Nicole. I’m a professional, middle-aged, single mom living in San Diego. I’ve got incredible people who love me and I love them right back. I have a fulfilling, rewarding, challenging profession where I come home every day honestly feeling I’ve helped some people. I have friends who are so hilarious and solid that even on my worst days, I’m laughing. My teenagers talk to me. We’re all really close. I’m best friends with my little sister, my ride or die, the only one who knows everything about me. My fur babies are fun, I’m outside working out by the beach all the time…

So basically, living a dream life.

And it’s the life I came this close to losing. All of it. My drinking was getting more important to me than any of my loved ones, work, or responsibilities. I was neglecting it all. I’d spent my whole life believing that the most important thing, the critical thing, was to be a good girl and don’t rock the boat and make people happy.

I spent my whole life anxiously trying to make everyone else happy. Why would what I want matter? If you’re happy, I’m happy.

So I wasn’t really paying attention to how miserable I was, how I made everyone else matter but me. Sometimes I ate my feelings, sometimes I starved them, sometimes I worked them to death, but mostly (especially at the end), I drank them. I kind of thought of all that wine as medicinal. Drown the sorrows, and all.

Somehow I realized if I didn’t save myself, reclaim myself, my kids wouldn’t have me to count on. Somehow I knew I had to take care of myself and prioritize my physical and mental health. I knew alcohol had to be the first thing to go.

If I hadn’t gotten sober, I wouldn’t have had the will to leave a bad relationship and nurture my good relationships. I’d have let my business slide. I wouldn’t have this amazing community I love so much. Join us on zoom, listen to our podcast, connect with sober sisters. 🖤

Life After Quitting

When I decided to let go of alcohol for good, I was pretty focused on just not drinking. I set up new routines and committed to them. I told my loved ones and asked them to support me. I went to lots of meetings, read books and articles, counted and celebrated days sober.

When I felt solid, I started chipping away at my underlying issues bit by bit. I prioritized my self care, met shame and fear head on, and nurtured the best parts of myself.

I feel transformed, and also exactly like myself. I’d lost my connection with my most authentic self forever ago. I didn’t think I was worthy of a great life. I was wrong.

The longer I live in alignment with my deep knowing of what feels good and right, the more calm and happy I feel.

That includes accepting the parts of me I tried to shift around to make other people happy. It was too exhausting, trying to play different roles in the same life.

Cutting ties with an addictive substance and staying stopped for some time gave me the mental clarity and physical/emotional well being to grow.

It’s so much better on this side. ❤️

Sober Women Don’t Play

If you want to know how I quit drinking and started feeling empowered and much, much happier, here’s my formula.

  • I decided to be done. I decided when I was clearheaded and took a minute to look at myself and how I felt about my life. I knew alcohol had to go.
  • I told my closest loved ones about my decision, mostly to keep me accountable to myself, but their support was nice too.
  • I made a plan for what to do during drinking times (baths, meetings, walk, whatever).
  • i sought out sober people and found a bunch. I tried all kinds of meetings to see if I there were any women I respected and enjoyed.
  • it took time, but I stuck around and found people who rocked my world in all the best ways (even when it was hard stuff) .

The last part, this amazing circle of fierce sober women, keeps me going. They just got me through a breakup. Here I was confused, sad, and fearful, and my impulse was immediately to start talking to my friends. Having a drink never even crossed my mind.

it’s about my emotional sobriety now. I need support to bolster me when I’m feeling wobbly. I learned how to ask for help, and my relationships are more real because of shared trust and vulnerability.

There’s a great many wonderful people out here. You are not alone. Reach out if you want support. We got this.

Sexy mama

When my sister and I were little we thought drinking was what made you grown up. We saw our parents drink and have a great time. We watched them and their friends at parties and they seemed so sophisticated to us. They danced, talked, and drank like classy adults. The way we drank was anything but classy. Drunk me sent an email to my former boss telling her that my place of employment had been copacetic before she got there. I think you can guess why she’s my former boss. Drunk me ran over my own cell phone. Drunk me passed out in the street. I made an as$ of myself just about every time I drank. And let’s not talk about weddings. I don’t know how many credit cards I’ve had to cancel because they were lost. I’d either start fights or become best friends with people at bars. The aftermath was horrendous. Anxiety, nausea, and shame. I don’t have to feel that way ever again because I choose to live sober and clean. I’d rather be sober and sexy than drunk and sloppy any day of the week. Happy Sunday, sober family. Keep it simple today.