february 19, 2020—halfway to 100

Half way to 100—Day 50 AFAF. I’ve been sick the past few days, possibly but hopefully not pneumonia (the people I was around this past weekend have been dropping like flies—I mean, not literally dying, but seriously knocked on their asses by this nasty infection). I’m feeling a little better today (does anyone else swear by the magic/placebo effect of Excedrin, btw??!! 😅), so I hope I dodged a direct hit—must be all this good, clean livin’ I’m engaging in. I’m tellin’ ya, in spite of three days of sore throat, body aches, head aches, and vile muck expelling from my lungs and my nose (where does it all come from, I want to know!!!), this beats a hangover any day. Along with that pretty thought, here are more thoughts on this monumental day in my life:
  1. Barring a medical crisis in 2001, when I was diagnosed with epilepsy and couldn’t drink for nearly two years while on anti-seizure meds (though I can’t say with 100% certainty that I was alcohol free that whole time; if I looked back at old photos of that period, I may very likely find out otherwise), I have not gone 50 days without alcohol since drinking became my second major (ha), when I started college in 1986. Which figures out to be about 3 decades. My GOD, that fact stuns and humbles me.
  2. My drinking wasn’t always “that bad,” (which I now know is highly subjective) but frankly, it’s always been bad (in my defense, I was responding to a powerful culture that fosters and promotes a very fucked up view of alcohol—that anyone escapes it, unscathed, is a miracle indeed). I can say in all honesty, I’ve been a binge drinker my whole drinking career. Out of the gate, the only point to drinking, I learned early on, was to get drunk. In college, it was cheep beer and high-alcohol drinks (Long Island Iced teas and wapatui parties anyone?); as a “mature adult,” the binging became more “sophisticated.” My husband was in the wine biz, so we attended many a wine event in our years together; we’d joke how wine tastings are just frat parties all prettied up.
  3. Right now, my data points consist of immersing myself in situations where I’d normally drink, but *not* drink, and instead, observe, take mental notes on how I respond physically, mentally, emotionally, etc. in such settings, which is far more revealing and valuable for me, than if I were to “collect a data point” via drinking. I already have more than enough data on that—over three decades’ worth. I want to learn more about how I authentically feel and respond in various settings without the interference of booze. Sometimes it’s so uncomfortable, I want to crawl right out of my skin, other times, it’s such a stunning, whole body experience, it’s almost other-worldly…
  4. Being alcohol free in settings where I’d normally drink is fascinating field study; sometimes it’s a blast—one-to-one conversations are pure and engaging, I feel deeply connected with others, all my senses are fully engaged—but frankly as often, it’s a tedious chore. Crowds overwhelm me, drunk people test my patience immensely (which makes me wonder how many people have been annoyed by my drunken behavior in my past??), my senses are kicked into overdrive and I find myself shutting down agains the assault. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s me still needing time to recalibrate my sober self to various settings, or if I’m simply learning that I really don’t like to do a lot of the things I thought I did (hanging out in bars for hours on end, drinking, has definitely fallen off my “Things I Love To Do” list!). Probably a bit of both.
  5. My work load has grown dramatically in the past two months (I’m a restorative exercise specialist and Pilates teacher) and as magical as that sounds—”I quit drinking and POOF! Wonderful things happen!”— it completely makes sense. The more obvious explanation is, in the past, my unaddressed cognitive dissonance about my drinking was so unsettling, it prevented me from really putting myself “out there” as a professional, because I felt like such a fraud—how can I call myself a health and wellness specialist when I have this dark, secret, very unhealthy side to myself? God, what a hypocrite…that, gratefully, is no longer an internal dialogue in my head. My actions and my beliefs are more in harmony with one another, and brings peace and clarity to my head and heart.
  6. I’m stunned at my calmer, cooler and more collected response to things that would normally send me into a tizzy (whatever a “tizzy” is!): my car breaking down in the middle of an intersection (instead of freaking the hell out, I wrote a poem as I waited over an hour for AAA!), rush hour traffic, challenging clients, a messed-up doctor appointment, family crises. In other words: life still happens, but I feel better equipped to deal with the curveballs.
  7. I’m not only on time, but I’m EARLY for appointments! 😱
  8. I vacillate between believing I’ve become the most hilarious/creative/badass/sexy AFAF mofo on earth to thinking I’m the dullest, most dowdy/uninspiring/sanctimonious acting-president of the local chapter of the New Women’s Christian Temperance Movement to ever walk this earth. Usually my badass AFAF mofo (in leather chaps, halter and motorcycle boots, of course), wins out, but some days, Sanctimonious Queen of Dullsville in her sensible shoes, granny panties and too-tight bun reigns supreme. Still not enough to make me want to drink, tho.
  9. I am sitting in deep grief right now. Not for my drinking self, not for my drinking life—I truly don’t miss either of those right now, at all, but for all the years I wasted, being wasted. All the opportunities that I’ve missed out o; how deeply I want to redo just about every monumental event in my life, hell, even the non-monumental ones—from weddings, to births, to caregiving, to hospice, to funerals, to graduations, to vacations, to concerts to dinners with friends, night after night alone—to re-experience them with a clear mind and heart. I know I can’t change the past, and every minute of every day is an opportunity to begin a new way. Still, grief is grief and it, too is a messy, nonlinear, feeling-all-the-feels process layered on top of who knows how many messy, nonlinear feeling-all-the-feels processes…
  10. I also keep reminding myself that, even with a sketchy history with alcohol, I’ve still done some pretty amazing things in my life. And I’m allowing myself grace and dignity: quite frankly, given some of the shit I’ve been through—that we all have been through—I honestly don’t know how we could have gotten through some of that without self-medicating in some way, shape or form. We only know what we know at the time, right? Once we become aware of a new way, we can do different, even if we don’t know what the hell we’re doing as we begin. That’s how cycles are broken—when someone decides to do different, and then does it. Without a blueprint, or well-laid plan, or much of anything at all but a desire. Annie’s book has this great line: “Change often happens when the pain of the current situation becomes so great, you become willing to change without fully understanding what the future holds.” I’m learning that I can literally do anything else, that I don’t have to drink to deal, or numb, or get through, even though this territory is foreign, and dealing with “all the feels” is sometimes outright excruciating, the payoff is worth it, so worth it.
  11. Which also reminds me that life is not static, it’s always shape-shifting, ebbing, flowing, evolving and growing, and it’s ugly and beautiful and horrible and mind-blowing and awe-inspiring and awful all at the same time, and I want to be fully present for every damned minute of the rest of my life. Here’s to another 50. xo
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