alcohol

It’s a slippery slope

recovery-ants

Ants in recovery-unaware of the direction but aware of the path.

I got sober in January of 2015 and I’ve been in recovery from an eating disorder since November of 2015. Yep, 2015 was a big year. The action of being in recovery looks different every day. Today, alcohol and I do not struggle. On occasion I’ll have a fleeting thought that a drink might be nice or something will happen that makes me crave the relief from just one drink. Usually when I think that way about booze I remember I am sober, check myself and move on. The eating thing…that is an entirely different beast.

Last year at this time, I was educated by a team of very smart therapists, doctors, and nutritionists about eating disorders – specifically binge eating disorder. I was taught how to go through a day of planned eating with scheduled snacks. With this plan, I  moved swiftly through the days…even with the  emotional turmoil that is life as a working mom, friend and wife. I was able to have loads of snack foods at my disposal, even in my pantry (the favorites were peanut butter pretzels, peanut butter M&Ms and chocolate peanut butter ice cream.) I divided these snacks into normalized portions in little plastic baggies. (except for the ice cream of course ) At snack time I would eat a portion and move on. I was done eating and THINKING about eating.

My disease has morphed. It tries to sabotage me. I tricks me into thinking I am normal. I have noticed in the past few weeks that I grab at the peanut butter pretzels at  will and I ask the husband to head to the store to pick up chocolate peanut butter ice cream whenever I want it. These foods in and of themselves are not bad. I don’t vilify food. But, unplanned eating is dangerous to me.  If I pre-commit to a snack – whatever it is – I can eat it without judgement.

When I grab the unplanned food, I know this is not what recovery looks like. But what I tell myself is that “I am WAY far in recovery and I don’t need to plan and pre-commit. I can eat whenever and whatever I want.”

Last night, after I had gone through the day of planned eating, I absentmindedly/knowingly grabbed a handful of peanut butter pretzels, realized what I was doing and still proceeded to shove some in my mouth. I did this knowing that the action was counter to my recovery. In the next few minutes, I started to feel the guilt and shame of being “owned” by a food. Why wasn’t I as strong as I was a year ago?

Instead of finishing off the rest of the bag, I took the remaining peanut butter pretzels, put them in the sink, got them super wet and soggy (cause you know, if they were dry and crispy I might chase them down later) and washed them down the drain. After that, I felt safer.

It’s true, a year ago I could keep those foods around and they wouldn’t faze me. Recovery looks different today from how it looked it did last year. It will be different three weeks from now. What I have to do today is make sure I create a safe space around food. Today, I can’t have my obsessive foods in my house. I have to be intentional and aware with food because we need it to survive.

These are some rules I try to follow to stay present and active in recovery.

  1. I do not pay  for alcohol…it’s a slippery slope.
  2. I don’t hang out in bars…unless there is a group and I have control of leaving.
  3. I do plan my  meals and snacks….it’s a slippery slope.
  4. I do stick to this plan…it makes life so much less complicated.
  5. I do reach out to people who struggle like me…they have saved my life…over and over.

My addicted mind

cry for webNot too long ago, I woke up on a Saturday morning, walked downstairs to find piles of things on the counter, dishes piled in the sink and trash strewn around the floor. At that moment I was overwhelmed with stress and guilt. I went from a messy kitchen to fears that my kids might go to prison. You see, my mind is not like yours. A messy dish in the sink is not what it appears to be. It transforms, like in a horror/sci-fi movie into a symbol for all things I have failed.

Here is how it went:

“Oh my god, I can’t believe how messy this kitchen is, why didn’t someone take care of it. Well, Jennifer, you could have done something about it if you hadn’t gone to bed at 8:30. Normal people stay awake till 10 or 11. Why didn’t someone else get these dishes taken care of? Your husband tried to do his best but you never seem to appreciate what he does, only criticize him when he doesn’t do things your way. I wish someone would see the value of having a clean kitchen in the morning. Well, if you had taught you kids to be responsible, you would have a clean kitchen. You have never been able to stick to a plan. You give them consequences and don’t follow through. These poor kids, you haven’t even successfully given them chores. They just tend to get what they want. How are they going to navigate life? What will they do once they go off to college. Hah, they might not even be able to handle that since you have been so remiss in teaching them responsibility. They will probably end up in prison some day because you were never able to teach them the importance of doing dishes.”

On a good day, this is the point at which the insanity stops. I can start walking back these issues, evaluating them on what is subjective and what is fact. Fact is, the dishes are dirty. That doesn’t mean they don’t respect me, that doesn’t mean anyone is going to prison, it just means that the dishes are dirty. Frankly, that doesn’t even mean that the dishes MUST be done. I could leave them there. I could throw them away and buy new dishes. There are a lot of options. My mind just tends to go to the most dramatic. I catastrophize everything. If my husband is late from work, it isn’t because traffic is bad or because he left a little late. He has certainly been killed on the way home.

All of this is part of my addicted mind. These are the reasons I drank. These are the reasons I binged. Today I can settle my brain from spinning out of control and not turn to a coping mechanism that forces me to forget. My most reliable, in the moment release is to cry. Today I cry more like I did when I was 13, but that’s okay. Crying probably won’t kill me. Though, I could probably weave a scenario that makes that a possibility.

366 days ago

I took my last drink. Because I knew it would be my last drink, I finished off a bottle of fireball whiskey I had in my pantry. I woke up with a horrible headache, texted a few friends and family members for accountability purposes, and went to get help for recovery.

Since then, I have been given many gifts, opportunities, and challenges. I haven’t had to experience one of them with a hangover. That, in and of itself is a gift.

Sobriety has given me emotions. Raw emotions that I am forced to sit in without numbing. Sometimes,honestly, they suck. This past year I suffered the loss of two friends to depression, my dog, and at times my sanity. And in the midst of all of that I had the ability to feel the pain, the sorrow, the grief, and the emptiness that comes along with life and living. 

One surprise was….I picked up a skill along the way. I can draw. Who flipping knew? I bought myself a sketchbook on August 22 and finished the sketchbook on October 7. I have a Facebook page and I have a small webpage set up to display my works. I use this as a major coping mechanism. And I love every single piece.

I am blessed with amazing friends from all different times in my life. In this past year I have continued  to meet people that fascinate me, inspire me, and compel me to be the best person I can be. I am grateful. So grateful.

I am reconnecting with my older sister in a way that we haven’t been able to connect in a few years. I’m not exactly sure why it’s been so difficult in the past, but I do know that in the past few times we’ve been together I have removed a lense that I have been using to listen to her with. As opposed to assuming that things she is saying are intended to hurt me, I’ve decided to choose to believe that the last thing she would want to do is hurt me. 

My kids have approached me with unbelievable topics to talk about over the course of this year. This is not something they could’ve done in the past. I don’t think they could’ve trusted me. First of all, I probably would’ve forgotten what we talked about. I mean I used to forget our conversations all of the time. But not anymore.

I’m going to be honest with you, and this past year I have been HONEST with you. Getting sober was the best decision I ever made. Period. 

painting with my sobriety date i did this summer with my gals

  

some one decorated for my 1 yr anniversary

 

Somewhere along the way I stopped trying to figure out why

hurts a bitwmAs a person who struggles with addiction I can feel pretty put upon at times, I will spin myself into epic Tasmanian clouds trying to get to the bottom of it all. I ask all sorts of questions. Why me? Why can’t I drink like other people? Why can’t I be the person sipping on a glass of champagne for  ½ an hour? Why can’t I stop when I felt tipsy? (this is just ridiculous) Why can’t I politely pass the basket of bread without eating the whole loaf?

Sometime in the past few weeks the “why” became irrelevant. All that was left was truth. The truth is I am flawed, scarred, and wounded. I’ve got to move on from that. I don’t need to go deeper into the reasons behind my behavior because frankly, I have lived my lifetime thousands of times in my mind trying to dissect the choices that led me to where I am today. I make myself physically ill from why I stayed at the party in 1987 instead of going home. I spin and spin whirling around choices, conversations, mistakes and wounds all to end up each time exactly where I am right now. HERE.

So today I choose not to look back. I will embrace the sorrowful losses and lean into this discomfort, armed and shrouded by community love and support.

I should be just fine.

Beginning of my Bottom

Came to Believe

Came to Believe

Around this time last year my drinking began to spiral out of control. To you on the outside it may not have seemed that way, but I remember sitting on the sofa one evening not even feeling buzzed after I had downed a bottle and a half of wine. It just stopped doing for me what it had done in the past.

As I type this I am getting a shame knot in my stomach. I can’t believe I reached that point. And it still wasn’t my bottom. I needed to go through a few more things, like shivering, sick in my bed with the flu for 2 weeks, but still dying for a drink, but not knowing how to ask someone to make me a drink when I hadn’t even been able to eat. My rushing through cooking soup in a pressure cooker (note the purpose of a pressure cooker is to cook fast) by forcing it open. It in turn exploded all over my abdomen and caused 2nd degree burns.  All of this so that I could sit in front of the TV and drink wine…my favorite escape. I spent Christmas constantly numbed with booze and pain killers from the burn. What would it finally take to reach the bottom? What would finally make me wake up and make the call that could save my life?

One night the husband and I went to pick up our to-go pizza from a local place, we had a couple of glasses of wine (really) and came home. When we got home my brave 10 year old daughter told me I scared her when I drink. She said I acted differently when I drank. I was less patient when I drank. I didn’t pay attention when I drank. My son came out of his room and said that he’d learned about the dangers of alcohol at school and that he wished we wouldn’t drink so much. In that moment, that single moment, I knew it was done for me. I knew I couldn’t do it any longer. I didn’t have the first clue how I was going to stop because I had so often tried to stop or modify my drinking in the past, but I knew I had to stop.

The next morning I sent text messages to the people in my closest circle of influence for accountability and support, most were surprised but some were not. I then called out for help, which I got in ways that I never ever could have imagined even possible. I feel complete today. I am different, there is no denying that.

If you even think you might need help, ask for it. There is a huge support system out there that will help you JUDGEMENT FREE!  I promise you this, “you’ll be amazed before you are half way through.”

 

My Triggers….Bang Bang

Shh....reprogramming in progress.

Shh….reprogramming in progress.

Before I quit drinking my eye used to twitch all of the time. It was a tiny twitch that no one else could see. I would point to my eye and ask a friend if they could see it and inevitably they couldn’t.

For years I used alcohol and food to mask my frustrations and feelings. I could always get myself into a place where nothing bothered me. Rough day at work? That’s okay, have a bottle of wine. Friend pissed you off? Binge on the popcorn, beer and Homeland, why not, you deserve it. But that little twitch, that was my tell. I didn’t always know right away WHAT I was stressed about, but I would mentally scroll a list of possibilities and once I got to the culprit the twitching would begin.

It is amazing how the mind body connection works. Only rarely now does the twitching flare up. Today is one of those days. This is because I am headed on a weekend of firsts. My first weekend to my parents’ home solo and sober, my first bus trip sober, my first trip where I plan to NOT act on my disordered eating.

There will be a lot of triggers – brown foods and buffets of southern Indiana, sugar cream pie, discussing restaurant options, relishing in the carefree atmosphere of not being a wife or mom for a few days, basking in the “daughterness” of my parents’ home, and sitting in the natural discomforts that come with lifelong relationships that have formed who we are.

I am grateful to have this opportunity. Many of my friends and family no longer have parents to share these experiences.  I have ton of coping tools. Some of which you are seeing here in black and white on the blog. I’m ready. Eye twitch and all.

Am I an Alcoholic?

Art showing the 12 steps of AA.All along the way there were signs that I had a drinking problem. I had no interest in reading those signs but some part of my brain registered them and remembers them.  In high school I stood in my boyfriend’s kitchen in the dark listening to  friends laughing and talking in the other room while I fixated on how many more drinks I was going to be able to finish that night. I remember blacking out at 16 and thinking it was scary, but that probably happened to everyone. I was arrested twice for underage drinking in college. In alcohol class as a result of my 1986 arrest by Ronald McDonnald (more here) the counselor told us that there were some people who once they start drinking, set off a cycle of craving where we want more and more and more alcohol.  I brought a keg of beer to a party. Not a case, a keg! I became the person who showed up for the 5K with a hangover because…why not. I measured days by what cocktails I had or would have. One bottle of wine turned into three.

A year before I got sober I had read somewhere that if you could go 30 days without drinking then you probably weren’t an alcoholic. I was so happy to finally determine whether or not I had a drinking problem. I was able to stop drinking for 30 days, but armed with this magical number I had NO inhibitions at all. I really boozed it up. My drinking became heavier and more frequent and my actions more erratic and insane.  Alcohol was my most reliable and steady friend until it wasn’t.

If you are lying there by the light of your phone taking online tests to see if you have a drinking problem, you probably do. If you are posting questions to online forums about whether you are, you probably are. If you wake up thinking you are completely alone cause no one else understands and that you can’t live without alcohol in your life, I understand.  Connect with someone about this, because once you do, you never have to feel alone again.

I’m A Liar

I lied to you for years. I lied to myself as well. Here I was on this quest for a healthier, happier me and I was hiding behind a shameful veil. As I hung out with you at the bar or restaurant drinking one or two beers, I was secretly wishing the time away so I could get back home to the full bottle of wine waiting in the cupboard for me drink … without judgement.

I tell you this now not to ask for forgiveness, but to get a little closer to understanding that addiction is astounding. I am addicted to alcohol, just as I am addicted to compulsive eating and binging. I have been sober from alcohol for nearly 10 months and am on a fresh new start to recovery for my disordered eating. I am still a proponent for health and body at my size, but I have to incorporate my mental health and wellness in this journey. I had no idea how closely one played into another. Not to mention the spiritual connection. Much much more on this all later.

I needed to set this record straight so that I can continue to share things I enjoy with you. I feel like I am on track. If sharing my stories, adventures, and struggles can help you, or someone you know, then I’ve been successful.

I wanna hear from you. Do you struggle with addiction? Is it a secret?

Art showing the 12 steps of AA.

I beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start.