Day 347: The Final Push.

My friend Claire’s post about Resilience https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/169561941/posts/487 got me thinking today. 

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com. Get it? Final push? lol

As I embark on the final push toward finishing my dissertation (4 weeks left to edit a 550 page manuscript… yikes!) and reaching the 1 year sobriety mark (though that feels more like a soft swoop than a push), I pause for a moment to take a breath, to gather my energy, and realize that sobriety has given me a set of wonderful tools that have been helping me along the way. Resilience is one of the most important ones. 

Although I am under tremendous amounts of stress and feeling a constant sense of heightened anxiety (mostly about meeting my September 20th submission deadline), I have been dealing with it surprisingly well compared to other times in my life when the pressure piled up and shit got stressful.

Big shout-out to 2010 Anne who at age 23 had just moved to a new city and was afraid of teaching her first ever high school class the next morning. I can still see her, lying on the cool tile floor of her empty apartment, curled into a tight little ball, unable to get out of the fetal position… Oh, the fond memories of 2008 Anne, who gulped down a glass of vodka at 8:00 AM before jumping on the subway to take an oral exam she was nervous about. Aaaaah, sweet, tender nostalgia for 2005 Anne who downed 2 glasses of red wine at 9:00 ON THE DAY OF HER DRIVING TEST because she was nervous…. Get the picture?

Whoever invented the expression “liquid courage” knew what they were talking about. 

Anyway. This past month, while pressure has been building up, I have been religiously following what is now officially called the “2020 Anne life-saving ritual.” No joke, it has made a tremendous difference in helping me keep my shit together.

The ritual goes as follows: wake up, feed cat, coffee. Meditate for 21 minutes. Do 30 minutes of yoga. Shower, eat breakfast, and THEN, start the day.

So for the last 30 days, every single day, I’ve been doing a free yoga series by a lady called Leslie Fightmaster on youtube. It’s called “30 minute Hatha yoga for happiness” and it’s perfect for my current needs: not too long, but not for complete beginners either, just the right balance between gorunding, challenging and convenient. Also, lots and lots of gentle, positive energy ❤ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JN1eW5nta3c She’s such a sweet lady, I’m now a big fan. THANK YOU MRS FIGHTMASTER, wherever you are!

Now, unlike past-Anne (or BS Anne, as my friend Claire would call her), whenever the waves of anxiety begin to feel overwhelming, I just breathe, and trust that I will get through all of this. That in a couple of months, I will be Dr. Anne 🙂  A few years ago trusting myself like this was inconceivable. Cutting through anxious loops and piercing anxious bubbles was unheard of. Surrendering and letting go instead of fighting was a skill I didn’t even know existed. You get the picture.

I won’t be blogging much for the next 4 weeks, though I’ll probably stop by on September 4th for my 1 year sober anniversary 🙂 And of course, I’ll try and stick around as much as I can to read and comment on all your posts. But if you don’t hear news for me for for a bit, don’t worry: I’m still on the wagon. I’m just also on another crazy academic wagon-rollercoaster, and moving into that period where I have to devote my time and energy to that one. But I’LL BE BACK 😉 

Xxx

Anne

Day 339: 11 months and My First Sober Camping Trip into the Wild

You might be thinking “Who on earth takes alcohol on a hike? Aren’t you supposed to travel light?” … Well, yes. Except when drinking is your top priority and—so you believe—the “only” to enjoy things. So yes, you read me correctly. This was a sober “first” for me.

In the past, if I went hiking and camped overnight, I would make sure to bring some kind of booze to “celebrate” by the fire after a long day of effort-making. Well, this weekend, after doing a portion of the Appalachian trail, some of it under the rain (one full day of it with horrible blisters on my feet), the reward was the joy of roasting marshmallows on the fire, and the simple, magnificent, joy of resting. Boy did it feel glorious. I don’t even think I would have wanted to drink, had the option been available. 

Anyway. In less than a month now I will have been sober for a year. My “anniversary” date is September 4th.

I’m saving the “big” thoughts for my one year post, but for now, to celebrate 11 months, I want to make one simple observation. Last month I had quite a lot of fantasizing about celebrating 1 year with a beer. Now that the 1 year landmark is approaching for real, the fantasies are dissolving, and instead, the desire to keep going is creeping up strong.

The timing of my PhD here is a blessing: I must submit my final draft on September 20th. Then, I will take a week long trip to California (my first time on the West Coast!) with my boyfriend… this will be our celebration/goodbye trip.

This means that my 1 year anniversary will happen in the middle of the final push before submitting my manuscript. There is no way in hell that I am messing that up by messing around with alcohol. So, I consider myself safe for at least another month, until I fly back to France on October 2nd.

That’s when the real challenge begins: back to the town where my drinking friends and family live, with the PhD postpartum blues, the boyfriend partum blues, the joblessness, the loneliness that comes from leaving 6 years behindon another content. A whole new life to build.

What kind of life will that be? When I think about it, a mixture of anxiety and hope blend together, which I can’t even begin to unravel right now. So instead, I return my attention to the present moment, to the work I still have to do, and to the comfort of knowing that the addict’s “all or nothing” mentality won’t be able to take over my brain when the 1 year mark comes by. 

Phew. 

I feel very small, but also very determined. 

Like a strong, hard, little rock.

Xxx

Anne 

Day 336: Survived my First Sober Beach Vacation With the In-laws!

With sobriety becoming a normal part of everyday life and the monotony of Covid-existence, it had been a loooOoong time since I had a sober first. This one I expected would prove to be very challenging, as I had never been sober on a vacation to the beach before (beach and evening drinks went together like ramalamalamakadingadadingadongg—i.e., were inseparable—in my mind) and had never spent more than a few hours in a row with my “in-laws” (my boyfriend’s parents), who are lovely people but whom I don’t know that well (also, as I am leaving the country forever in a couple of months, I anticipated things might be a bit strange, but on the contrary, everyone was SO sweet). 

Long story short, it was great. How refreshing to spend time in a family where people don’t open the first bottle of wine before lunch! How new to observe that on most evenings, everyone was drinking water, and perfectly content! Sure, the dad had a couple of beers before dinner, but the great majority of us (there were 6 people in total) weren’t drinking. One evening, they opened a bottle of champagne for the uncle’s birthday, and only 3 people out of 6 partook. My lovely boyfriend didn’t take a single sip of alcohol during our whole stay. I felt supported, but I also don’t even think he did it for me.

In my own family this is inconceivable.

So this was a first for me, not merely in the sense of “wow I survived  a new experience without drinking” but also of, “wow, turns out people can enjoy these things without needing a drink, that’s actually an option”. It was real-life reframing, happening right there in front of my eyes. 

I’ve been back (and back to work) for a few days already now, but this little escapade really helped refresh every cell in my body, mind and soul. Every single part of me savored the fresh air, the breeze, the waves and the ocean sunsets. It made me feel grateful to be sober and realize that life doesn’t need anything added to it. In those precious moments, everything is already perfect.

Big hugs, 

Anne 

Day 316: 10 Sh***ty Things I Stopped Doing Which Changed My Life.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So many of us, either on the sobriety journey or on a more general self-development quest, think in terms of positive changes and “to do” lists that help us stay on our paths of growth and self-improvement. But today, in the Simplify your Life section of Quora, I found a cool idea that I had never thought about because it takes things from the opposite angle, so I thought I’d give it a go.

https://www.quora.com/q/simplifyyourlife__ni__=0&__nsrc__=4&__snid3__=9847308803&__tiids__=9354292

10 [shitty] things I stopped doing in my life:

1) Stopped drinking (discovered the joys of sober living)

2) Stopped apologizing all day long (started acknowledging my right to exist and take up space)

3) Stopped chasing love at all costs, including self-abandonment (started to love myself and be ok being alone. Started individuating when in a romantic relationship)

4) Stopped watching TV at age 17 when I loved out of my parents’ house. (Started a Netflix subscription, social media accounts and a blog… Basically, switched to millennial TV. ^^)

5) Stopped smoking (started exercising and discovered the joys of being able to breathe fully)

6) Stopped beating myself up so much and mindlessly engaging in self-abuse with negative self talk (started positive self-talk habits and inner child work)

7) Stopped running away from my emotions and hiding in my comfort zone (started to feel like it’s ok to cry/be sad/angry/anxious and learnt how to let those emotions move through me: started emotional regulation)

8) Stopped people-pleasing by systematically keeping my opinion to myself (started speaking up, even when it might lead to potential conflict)

9) Stopped considering my body as an “ugly” work-in-progress to be fixed at all costs so others would love me (started loving it here and now [THAT’s the real work in progress], started self-care practices like daily yoga, meditation)

10) Stopped hoping that my parents would change and finally meet my needs. (started to self parent and BE the person, GIVE the love I need(ed), to myself and others)

These are in no particular order, but have definitely changed my life.

I still bite my nails though.  Nobody’s perfect! 🙂 What shitty things did you stop doing?

Xxx

Anne

Day 313. The Pain of Great Goodbyes

We’ve all had ’em, but man, can they sting!

All this meditation is supposed to teach you to live in the present, but more and more, as my final departure from the U.S. approaches, I find myself overcome by waves of nostalgia and sadness, which the Buddhists would say stem from clinging and an inability to let go. 

Yeah, well it’s easier to let go when you’re all alone in your meditation cave.

I’ve moved between countries essentially all my life. I was born in Nepal, grew up in Vietnam, lived in Paris for 10 years before leaving for the U.S.A. on my own at age 27-ish. My parents met abroad. Half of my siblings live abroad. We’re a scattered family, who, though we are mostly scaredy cats, still love to explore new places. That means there’s been a lot of goodbyes over the years. The hardest for my family was leaving Vietnam in 1999. I remember crying and begging my parents to let us stay, and my mother crying too, saying we had to go back to France. 

Today, as an adult who (no matter how much I feel like a giant baby, and despite the complete lack of visibility in the near future) is independent and knows how to take care of herself on her own (growing up in an alcoholic household will teach you that), I am struggling to say goodbye to the life I made here. The life I ended up getting used to, though I HATED it for the first 3 years [Now I can see that what I really hated was myself]. Isn’t it crazy how the inner lives of humans change like the wind? A few years ago ALL I wanted was to get out of this horrid PhD program, out of this city, out of this country and go “home”, back to my French boyfriend, and my sweet, sweet French vegetables that actually taste good. And here I am, after a few years of self-care, hanging on to the familiarity and comfort of the nest I made on this other continent, reluctant to loosen my grasp. 

I don’t know where my home is anymore.

My current American boyfriend-friend and I are getting along well these days. How ironic. Or should I say, classic. I’m stuck in that cognitive bias where you only see the good sides of the person/world and completely brush off the things that drove you crazy just a few weeks before. Now I’m the one crying and wondering how I can leave such a precious perfect gorgeous human being behind, just like that. We realized last night that we’ve been glued together for the last two years.

Like, literally seeing each other everyday, like a pair of siamese twins. There have been wonderful ups and (way too numerous) downs and saying goodbye is going to be heartbreaking. And that’s ok.

I’ve had my heart broken many times before, and I know that it’s not the end of the world – that hearts have an infinite ability to heal and replenish and that they are never really completely broken – just very tender – and that when they’re hurting, it’s a beautiful opportunity to love yourself and the whole universe, and that that pain also has its insane beauty. I know that what awaits me in the next few months will be painful, but I know it will also be a return to myself, my home country, my future life. The one that now, thanks to sobriety and the last few years of working on myself, I finally feel capable of bringing into existence. On the good days (on the other days I let anxiety unravel her negative thoughts and almost every scenario ends with me dying alone and childless, eaten by my cats). 

This week I have to buy my plane ticket. I tried yesterday, but couldn’t. It was too real. I messaged my parents (very un-Anne-like) telling them it was hard, emotionally. My dad responded “we understand”. My mom didn’t respond. 

I guess it has begun. The great Goodbye. I know that most of the pain is due to fear of fear, fear of pain. I know the antidote is to be here, now. 

Still, I am feeling vulnerable, tender, and melancholic. I know that the antidote is to remember that that’s ok too. 

Xxx

❤ 

Anne

Day 311: 10 Months Sober.

This picture was taken 5 years ago when I had just moved to the US. My heart was broken and I was severely depressed, longing to feel free. Willing to do anything to feel a bit of relief. Ironic, as I look pretty free on that swing.

Today I have freed myself from so many of the balls and chains that were weighing on me during those dark times. Depression as a default mode. Alcohol and smoking as coping mechanisms. Codependency as a mean to find self worth. Compulsivity as emotional regulation. Total absence of self love, self care, self worth and and self esteem. On all these fronts, things have dramatically changed. These last 10 months of sobriety feel like the culmination point of a long trek up Mount Return-to-the-self. From up here, things are far from being perfect, but despite everything, if I had to choose between yes or no, I would without hesitation say that yes, I am happy. This was unconceivable just a couple of years ago. 

As I look down over the hills and valleys, I see the villages and winding roads of the future stretching out before me. I see vast plains, space on every side: open possibilities. (I also see the end of this “mountain” metaphor). It’s a nice change from seeing only stormy clouds, impending doom and failure, aka. Mordor. Now that I see the play of light and shadow, the beauty in the contrast, I get a better sense of the perfect-imperfection that is life. 

Will I live with an anxious knot (the one that lies underneath all the drama and substance use) in my stomach for the rest of my life? Maybe. But now, it’s manageable. Now I know that it’s ok to feel anxious, or sad, or angry. That none of these feelings need to be covered up. That they really do pass, and that letting them arise is the beginning of their end. I know that I don’t need to make a dramatic story out of them, nor do I need to numb out. I also don’t need to sit on a swing and take pictures and pretend I can fly to try and convince the world that I am ok when I’m not. I can stay just here, feet firmly planted on the ground, feeling grounded no matter what’s up. And when I look closely, I can even notice the moments where the knot is not there at all, and I can breathe freely.

I can choose to cultivate these moments, and turn them into a second nature.

I can carry them with me.

Yesterday, after 3 days of final insanity and pushing through, I submitted the last chapter of my dissertation to my PhD advisor. I hope she likes this version and doesn’t ask for a third re-write. Cause I AM EXHAUSTED. Exhausted but happy. 10 months sober under my belt brought me to the place where I stand right now. I hope that wherever you are today you can be grateful for everything that brought you here.

Hang in there everyone

Xxx

Anne

Day 301: Goodbye tattoo and skinny dipping

The big 300! In 65 days, I will celebrating one full year sober.

I. can’t. believe. it.

In the midst of my still ongoing struggle to finish the last chapter of my dissertation, I was swept off of my feet (and out of my misery) by my friend-boyfriend-partner yesterday, who took me on the most wonderful “take a break” day I’ve had in a long time. This will have beeen the second year in a row where I don’t really get a summer vacation (thanks PhD-Covid combo!), so it did me a tremendous amount of good.

We drove out into the middle of nowhere to avoid Covid-land, aka. humans, and went on a hike along a river, in which we went swimming.

Let me rephrase… In which we very cautiously walked in, tiptoeing around like two giant, hyper-alert scaredy-cat babies, looking out for snakes and trying not to slip on the slimy rocks. Half an hour later though, we were happily splashing about like fish in the sea, diving under water, rolling around on the rocks, having the time of our lives. Then an old fisherman appeared out of nowhere and waded past us in his rubber boots, smoking a cigar (in the water!), then disappeared into the distance. Once he was gone, we had a f***k it moment, and took off our swimming costumes/bathing suits (depending on where you’re from) and swam around naked for a good half hour, like little kids. When a couple of hikers passed us by and waved, we “hid” in the water and waved back sheepishly, then put our clothes back on and hiked back to the car. It was so much fun, and felt so freeing to be alone, naked (in a non-sexual way), in broad daylight in the middle of nature, with somebody you trust. Not having to worry about body image, work, responsibilities, the future, none of that. Just splishy-splashy and the joy of letting the rapids carry you down the river before stumbling back up it, laughing, to make sure fisherman guy hasn’t decided to wade away with all your clothes and belongings.

Anyway.

That swim was planned because it was our last chance to get wet before we did THIS.

Yep, we got matching tattoos of a drawing made by Picasso (from a series called the “Constellations”). There’s no special meaning attached to the drawing in itself (except that it’s pretty), but we wanted to get the same one to celebrate 6 years of friendship, almost 2 years in a Romantic relationship, and 2 months left to go before I return to my home country and we say goodbye, “forever”.

Although our paths might cross again in the future (who knows), we are not planning on trying to navigate a long distance relationship (I’ve tried in the past, it’s not fun. Also, I’m 33 and want kids sooner rather than later). Anyway. Without thinking about it too much, we noticed that we had placed our tattoos on body parts that we can’t see ourselves, except by “looking back” behind us (in a mirror), which, we decided, was a good way to symbolize the gesture of looking back toward the past, where our beautiful and chaotic story belongs.

Cheesy? Sure. Cute? Absolutely. Do I care about other people’s opinion? Nope! Looks like America has taught me a lot.

I love y new tattoo and never thought I would be the kind of person who now has FOUR tattoos! wowowow.

This day really cheered me up and is making the rest of the week less bleak and feel more bearable. Hang in there everyone.

xxx

Anne

Day 293 : Feeling Better

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com

Just a little update so I don’t disappear into oblivion. I feel like I have made it out of the tunnel of depression of these last 3 weeks. Like Claire at Ditching the Wine https://gettingsobernow.wordpress.com/, I halved my antidepressant medication two or three weeks ago, and am on my way to being med-free, probably sometime around the end of July. The drinking cravings have gone too. I have digested my advisor’s feedback about my last chapter, and although I still feel my heart sink whenever I face the work still ahead of me, I do a little bit every day and just keep going, stop by step.

Actually, I’ve been tricking my brain and I can’t believe it’s working: if I tell myself that I’m just “pretending” to work- i.e. that whatever changes I make to my chapter are “temporary”, or if I write something, that it’s “just to see what it would look like, but not real, actual changes” (i.e. if I remove all the pressure I’m placing on myself to write something good)-, then I find myself being able to get a LOT more done than if I’m just staring at a screen, trying to make it perfect. Sigh. Good old silly brain. My faithful companion.

I’ve also stopped obsessing about food so much and of course, that has dramatically reduced the bingeing tendencies and temptations. As I let go of body-image concerns, I have started to practice yoga more consistently, which is almost ironic.

In brief, I’m realizing how beneficial letting go of the ideal of perfection is for me (duh!), and how I need to constantly remind myself to do so. I don’t need a perfect PhD, or a perfect body, or a perfect life. I don’t even know what those things ARE, but I DO know they are unattainable in real life. And that with such goals, I am merely causing my own suffering and perpetuating the cycle of my own misery.

Instead, I am trying to practice radical self-acceptance. I am trying to accept my life, my situation and my self just as they are, without worrying and planning for the future, without trying to improve them constantly. I am trying to stop considering myself as a work in progress ,as being in need of progress.

It’s not always easy, and it certainly doesn’t feel natural YET, but I manage to let go of unrealistic expectations, I feel tremendous waves of relief. I am amazed, like always, at the multiple ways in which letting go can happen. Best of all, feelings of gratitude and appreciation return, and now I can feel joy and enjoyment again. So yeah, it does sound like I’ve made it out of a baby tunnel of sorts.

Oh and my boyfriend/friend/partner/whatever and I are getting a matching goodbye tattoo on July 1st. It’s one of Picasso’s Constellation drawings: 

It’ll be a way to remember our years together here in the U.S.A. and our beautiful, tumultuous story after I leave. Everyone thinks we are weirdos for breaking up just because I have to move our of the country, but deep down we both know that we are better as friends than romantic partners. A tattoo is something we both wanted anyway, and a nice way to honor all the growth and work we’ve both done on ourselves together during the last 2 years. 

Hope y’all are doing well ! xxx

Anne

Day 283 : Take that Criticism With a Smile!

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Yesterday I Zoomed (yes, that’s a new verb) with my PhD advisor, who gave me much awaited feedback on the final chapter of my dissertation,

As many of you know, I had been struggling for months to write it, and handed in about a week ago. Whereas she loved chapter 3, she asked me to rework chapter 4 and send it to her in a couple of weeks. Gulp. My initial reaction was a great big internal “NoooooOOOOoooooOOOooooOOOOoooOOOOoo”!

The last thing I want is to have to face that giant blob again.

Of course, now that the overwhelming disappointment has faded, I can see that her feedback was constructive. Actually, the parallel with the other areas of my life are not merely striking, they’re almost ironic.

Her main point is that she wants me to be braver and state my ideas loudly and clearly instead of drowning them in an ocean of references and quotes. She wants be to be more argumentative, or as she put it, “polemical”. LOL

In other terms, she wants me to get over my self-consciousness and insecurities, and stand up for my ideas. This has been my struggle all throughout academia, and the main reason for which I want to get out. For almost 10 years now I’ve dragged around a severe case of impostor’s syndrome which makes me cower and hide behind the thoughts of others instead of stating my own opinion. This, we are actually taught to do in the French system. In the USA I had to unlearn all that and slowly, timidly venture my own opinion, doing my best to ignore the counter-arguments that come to mind even before the initial idea is fully formulated. We laughed together on Zoom yesterday when I told my advisor she had identified my main Academic Neurosis and was giving me Academia-Therapy.

I am always amazed at how the mind works. My advisor’s feedback contained a lot of positive elements too (my favorite being “Your ideas are revolutionary, Anne”). But of course, all I could think about were the negative points, which haunted me all day. Believe me, I tried my best to accept. I meditated, read, engaged in positive self-talk, remembering that nobody and nothing is perfect. I reminded myself that giving constructive feedback is the job of the advisor, which takes away neither the value of my work nor my self-worth. As you all know, there can often be a huge gap between what we know (intellectually) and what we feel.

Still, I proudly acknowledged that this time last year, receiving this kind of feedback would have been (disproportionally) devastating for me, but that now, with 4 chapters under my belt, I am more solid and capable of taking it into consideration without completely crumbling to pieces.

Still, I was upset.

When my friend came over and saw the state I was in (which I would describe as “trying to keep it together in an elegant dignified manner, yet with tears streaming down my face”), he said that the intensity of my reaction showed that I was still suffering from PTSD from my childhood [and there I was, thinking I was doing well, reacting in a more composed manner than in my past]. By PTSD, he meant from growing up with a constantly dissatisfied, bitter, alcoholic mother. 

Several therapists have said I could be suffering from “complex PTSD”, but I often forget this and catch myself thinking there something wrong with me. First for not being perfect, then for my inability to let go of the perfectionism. Even at age 33 I can still hear my mother’s voice, telling me to stop being like this: “Oh Anne, get a grip, you’re such a drama queen and a hyperperfectionist, just like your mother. You’re too emotional, you make such a big deal of things, you have such low self esteem. Just stop”.

I can still remember how, having been the star pupil and top of the class for most of my life, when I was about 6 or 7, I was crying in the kitchen one evening because I couldn’t find my school notebook and couldn’t do my homework. Everything was the wrong way round: the child was freaking out about work and the PARENTS were telling the child to chill out and relax about it.

Sigh. 

I know the perfectionism is (and was) a coping mechanism to survive in an alcoholic household. 

Before my friend came over, I thought I was doing well by accepting the “imperfection” of my work, not fighting the tears, and sitting with the “humiliation”. By just letting it happen and observing it like a wave, or clouds, or a cloudy wave, or a wavy cloud. 

But my friend’s reaction showed me that my emotional difficulty/inability to take criticism is still not “normal”. And this is why despite all my efforts, I am really really dreading the PhD defense which is scheduled for September-October. A PhD defense is basically a 2 hour long extra-harsh-criticism-session. To which you must respond on the spot. And be calm and say smart things. The mere thought of it gives me anxiety. A year ago I couldn’t see myself surviving it without medication, a miracle, or drinking beforehand to loosen the inhibition. Today I am hoping to do it 100% sober, without supernatural intervention, with my own humble skills and resilience.

When (if) I survive that challenge, I will have proven to myself how far I have come. 

I guess the whole point of this ramble was that the more solid your foundations and your self-esteem, the easier it is to simply listen to criticism without getting defensive, falling apart, or becoming overwhelmed.

Then it struck me.

The same goes for compliments! Just listen, accept, take it in, neither cling nor push it away. And of course, when you are ready, let it go 🙂

I’ve learnt how to do it with compliments, I can learn with criticism.

Strength to all!!!!

Xxx

Anne

Day 280: Giant Ego

This is going to be a shortie.

Basically, I’ve been experiencing a few cravings and quite a lot of thoughts about drinking these days.

I’ve been daydreaming about social gatherings with friends, vacation, going to the beach, hot naked dudes (just kidding… not!), cold IPAs and laughter and carelessness and swimming pools and in-person connection…. All the things that have been prohibited and missing for these last few months of lonely, repetitive quarantining, and the intense, complicated times that we are specifically facing here in the USA.

I don’t know if it’s because this is my first “sober spring” and it’s been a while since I’ve experienced a “sober-first”, or just because quarantine and nonstop work are starting to really take a toll on me (especially as my summer is going to be work work work), but these past couple of weeks have been hard. I am just so sick of spending all day in front of a laptop, of going on the same walk over and over again, and trying to force myself to do yoga and meditate instead of eating chocolate in the evenings. 

On a whim, I decided to create an Instagram account for my sobriety blog yesterday. But little did I know, this ego trip would end up fueling the cravings!

Yep, when I saw how many online sobriety accounts there are out there, I got competitive and fantasized about running a successful Instagram account with thousands of followers. But then I imagined myself one or two years into the future, and saw it in all too clearly….

The Sobriety Social Media Curse: When you are a “successful” sobriety blogger/instagrammer, you can’t drink ! You can’t f**k up. So many people follow, monitor and “depend” on your success. If you do f”””k up, prepare to face the shame of coming out to everyone. I know that if I had a slip up, a part of me would want to lie and keep it to myself – which would create SO MUCH guilt and inadequacy. A true curse.

I could only run a successful sobriety Instagram account if I was prepared to publicly admit that I “failed”. For now, all that sounds much too stressful. For now, I am grateful to only have 17 followers 🙂

After giving it some thought, I believe the Instagram fantasy ended up feeding the craving fire because it put me in the “I can never drink again” mindset, which is counter productive and the opposite of the “one day at a time” attitude that works so well.

BUT IF YOU HAVE INSTAGRAM, FOLLOW ME. lol

Anyway…

These days, I’ve also been thinking about the 1 year mark, which is slowly approaching. And when I say “thinking”, I mean thinking about whether I am “ready to moderate”, or have “just one drink”, to “celebrate” having come so far. Sigh.

At least I haven’t been planning on drinking before then. So that’s another 3 months left to gain in wisdom and maturity, and hopefully feel differently. Honestly, I would feel like a complete failure if I “cracked” before then. But as for many people who have recently hit that mark, thoughts about “what comes next” are beginning to creep in. I even found a bullshit excuse to add to the mix: my 1 year sobriety anniversary (September 4th) will more or less coincide with my PhD defense…. and my brain automatically goes to “celebrate with a beer”.

But here’s the glitch.

I picture myself celebrating 1 year of sobriety. Proud, happy, refreshed and rested, or what have you. Holding that beer.

Then my addict brain immediately kicks in… “One beer will never be enough. You’ll beed 2 beers to feel satisfied”. And then the cycle starts…. “Wait, 2 is already too much, it’s basically a failure which proves you’re still a compulsive drinker, way to go, Anne! And anyway, after two beers you’ll probably be quite disinhibited so instead of being ‘reasonable’ and feeling frustrated, you might as well let loose and celebrate with one night of drinking as much as you want, then you’ll get back on track”……. “Ok, well if you do one night, maybe you can do one week of drinking, then do another year of sobriety?”………

Hmmmmmm….. my brain is basically telling me to celebrate 1 year of sobriety and becoming a PhD by going on a crazy drinking binge, thereby proving my complete inability to moderate, and thus reemphasizing the importance of keeping the sobriety thing going.

On the other hand, because I am simultaneously being tortured by my FOMO-fearing brain (yes, that’s a pleonasm), for now I have decided to settle for a compromise: until/unless I am ready to “celebrate” with just one beer (i.e. to tolerate the “frustration” of stopping after just one and not giving in to the urge to keep going, i.e. to moderate for real), then I cannot drink.

And guess what…. for now, the prospect of having to stop after just one makes the whole think kind of not worth it. I’d rather not open that giant, gaping, impossible to quench, thirsty pandora’s box…. I’d rather let the whole thing sleep instead of stirring up the shit and awakening the craving monster. It’s just not worth the effort. I remember all the struggle and suffering and shame caused by my inability to moderate and how hard it was to quit in the beginning. It feels easier to just not drink.

That’s how I’m navigating the 2020 Great Spring Temptation: I am remaining sober out of laziness, out of the unwillingness to make the effort of moderation. LOL. 

P.S. Big shout-out to my friend Jim at Life Beyond Booze https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/165338330/posts/527 who is back in the blogging community and whose last post prompted me to write this one. You should all check out his blog if you haven’t already!

Hang in there folks !

xxx

Anne

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