Round 2 Complete

I made it.

August 1.  I have been sober for 31 days.  Last year, I have friends sitting around my living room waiting for midnight so that they could pour me a shot.  This year, August 1 came unceremoniously, though tonight I plan to go to happy hour.

This year’s challenge was much easier than last year’s.  Overall, there weren’t many occasions where I thought I would cave.  Even when I wanted to cave, I couldn’t.  Maybe since I had made it through the challenge last year, it seemed easier to get into the groove again.  Pack my own drinks for parties.  Drink club soda with a lime to fit in at bars.  Truthfully, if I didn’t make a big deal about it, no one else did either.

What have I learned this time around?  Gosh, it’s hard to say.  Maybe if you don’t focus on something so hard, it’s easier to reach your goal.  That doesn’t seem like sound advice, but that approach seems best for remaining sober.  When I went to the beach, I had mentally gave myself to a free pass to drink.  I told myself, if it rains, you can drink.  It didn’t end up raining, and I never felt the need to give in anyway.  

Another key to success is support from others.  My success is largely attributed to holding myself publicly accountable (this blog), and people reaching out to offer words of encouragement.  

Finally, I’ve said several times this month that I felt like I could be sober forever.  I probably couldn’t be, but I definitely can cut back.  One lesson I will take away is the beauty of enjoying things in small portions rather than in excess.  I hope to embrace that lesson over the next year, and have an even easier sober July in 2014.

Cheers!

Virgin Drinks

Last weekend, I made my yearly voyage to Ocean City.  The forecast was calling for rain, and if you’ve ever visited the beach during a storm, you are aware the only thing to do is belly up to the bar.

Luckily, it didn’t rain, but my friends were still interested in spending some time day drinking.  I knew I was going to cave.  I had already made my mind up it was going to happen.  I had made it 19 days, that was respectable right?

Well…I didn’t!  Bar after bar we visited, each offered at least one of their frozen beverages virgin.  I ended up drinking a lot of sugary drinks and milkshakes, but not a drop of alcohol.

I said to one of my friends the other day that I wish I could say sober forever.

"What do you like about it so much?"

I don’t know.  It’s hard to describe.  It feels like my body is operating on a higher octane.  I’m running faster than I ever have (and have signed up for another half marathon for this reason!)  My hair is long and my finger nails are like claws.  I get so much done.  I have a ton of energy.  I have extra cash to spend stupidly in other ways.  The mental clarity is great.

But there’s always that feeling I’m missing out on something.  

Sober Bottomless Brunch

One of my favorite meals when I’m drinking is bottomless brunch. This is the concept of being able to order unlimited mimosas while enjoying your brunch.

Last weekend, my roommate had some friends from college in town, and graciously asked me to join them for a bottomless brunch. This brunch not only offered unlimited drinks, but also plates, so I figured I loosened my belt a little, I would surely get my money’s worth.

I ate. And ate. And ate. The girls ordered drink after drink. Our generous waiter made the rounds with a giant carafe of mimosas, topping off drinks along the way.

I managed to stay sober, and when brunch ended at 2:00, we were sent out into the street cackling.

About two blocks from home, we came across a man and woman sitting on a couch on a busy corner. The man was drinking a diet coke, and the woman was on her iPad. They had a dog on a leash between them. The closer we got, we noticed a sign.

FREE COUCH

"Is this couch really free?!" my roommate asked. Her outgoing personality and ability to make conversation with complete strangers usually invites adventure into our lives.

"Yes, completely free. You just have to move it," the woman said.

My roommate and the other girls couldn’t believe their luck. They took turns sitting on it and petting the dog. It was becoming more apparent this couch would be coming home with us.

"Let me talk to my roommate about this. She’s the one with design skills." My roommate turned her back to the couple and the couch, and whispered, “Do you want this couch?"

Yes. It’s a nice couch. Let’s take it.

I was feeling adventurous. I mean, this was pretty great luck. The couch was a little faded, but overall good shape. Again, I promise I hadn’t been drinking.

"Are you sure?"

Ask them if anyone has peed on it.

My roommate turns to the couple and asks, “has anyone peed on it?”

"No," they said in unison.

She turns back to me, “They said ‘no.’

Ask them if anyone has died on it.

"Has anyone died on it?"

"No."

"They said no."

She then pauses and turns back to the couple. “Has anyone had sex on it?”

"Yes!" said the man. The girls started laughing.

"We’ll take it!" my roommate declared.

I tell my roommate I’ll go rent a zip truck and pick it up, since I was the only sober one.  ”Oh right,” she said, “I forgot about that.”

Moments later, I found myself behind the wheel of an oversized utility van. It amazes me they let normal people with normal licenses drive things that big.  Especially people like myself who don’t own cars, and only have the opportunity to drive every 6 months or so.  There was nothing to see in the rear view mirror, since there were no windows in the back  Negotiating a turn took careful precision.  I didn’t dare take the thing over 20 miles per hour.  Every time I passed a biker, my heart rate quickened.  Please don’t let me hit them.

The drunk girls I’d left behind had become fast friends with the owners of the couch, even heading up to their apartment to use their bathroom.  They loaded the couch into the back, and I started inching towards the back alley of our apartment, planning to somehow maneuver it up the fire escape, as I’d seen the professional movers I’d hired months back move my own couch into the space.  

After unloading the couch from the van, it became clear we weren’t going to be able to move the couch up the stairs, and my roommate said the solution would be to have male friends come help us later on.  We moved the couch out of the way of alley traffic, and I drove the van back to the lot.

When I got home, my roommate was sitting on our current couch.  ”I’m not sure we should keep that couch.  What do you think?”

I don’t know.  We can think about it.  It was free either way.  Let’s leave it at the bottom of the fire escape and think about it.  As long as it doesn’t rain, we’ll be fine.

Later that evening, it poured.  The next day we dragged the couch out of the alley to the main road and left a sign on it.

Free couch.

Mainely Sober

"I can’t spend the next hour and a half talking with you sober," a man in a suit says to his colleague.

My flight home was delayed as well.  However this time, there was no bar in sight.  There are two gates at Boston’s Logan Airport that are separated from the rest of the terminal, meaning you go through a separate security check in order to get to your gate.  It’s not until you are through security that you realize, this side has no warm food and no hard drinks, only small carts of snacks and magazines.  

I was relieved.  After 9 days straight of family time, I might have caved. The two businessmen discussed their options, including going through security again.

I’m proud to say I’m 11 days sober, though I can’t say this time has been any easier than last July.  I spent 9 days chauffeuring my mother around Maine, visiting distant relatives, some I hadn’t seen in decades. And some who offered us drinks when we arrived. The prospect of drinking with people who knew me when I was 5 sounded really intriguing.  What stories would I hear?  What memories have I forgotten?  These things came out anyway without drinks.

So far, I feel great.  Full of energy, fresh as a daisy.  I haven’t lost any weight, but I’ve also been eating ice cream every day, replacing one vice with another.

I’ll work on more frequent updates.  It makes me feel proud that I can say I’m still in the challenge.

Welcome back

Last night, I went to bed practically excited to embark on another sober challenge. This one will be a breeze, I thought. I’m going on vacation of the first 9 days of July with my mother, a notorious teetotaler. That’s almost a third of the way there, right?

I now find myself sitting at the airport with my flight delayed. Bars are aplenty. If today were yesterday, I would be parked there entertaining myself until my flight was called. I even thought about moving my start date to tomorrow, so I could go have some beers. I had no idea temptation would find me so quickly.

So, I bet you are wondering of I’ve gone back to my old ways since my spell with sobriety. I like to think I haven’t entirely, though there are still some occasions where I over consume. In the weeks after the challenge ended last year, I would feel like I was drinking poison every time I had a drink.

That passed obviously. I tried to go sober again in March and I made a total of 17 days before I slipped up. March is such a boring month, but there were those few days when the weather was unseasonably warm and beckoned me to have a drink on a rooftop patio. Oh well, you have to live a little sometimes.

I’m looking forward to chronicling the experience here again. As always, thanks for reading - you hold me accountable.

August 1

I made it! Phew!

Thank you for all of the support and kind words over the past month.  I attribute my success to the fact I had a fantastic support network of friends, followers, and even random strangers holding me accountable.  All the little gestures like getting me diet cokes while you were at the bar, or sending me a twitter message encouraging me to keep going, made a huge difference whether you realized it or not, so thank you!

Cheers!

The Last Day

I’ve been sober for 31 days.  Today is the last day.

I feel healthier, though I don’t necessarily feel “detoxed.”  I’m not even quite sure what that would feel like. 

So, what have I learned? 

Apologies for the cheese, but it’s true I can accomplish anything I put my mind to and little willpower behind.  To all of you who doubted me, boy I showed you, didn’t I?!

It is possible to have fun while sober, but it’s a different sort of fun.  It’s not the crazy- stories-at-brunch type of fun.

When you are sober in a room full of drunk people, you see things you don’t normally notice when you are drunk as well.  People fall, puke, cry.  Friends throw passive aggressive barbs at each other in casual conversations.  Earlier this month, I went to a going away party for a friend.  The next day, I stopped by the house again, and she asked me if I’d seen anyone making out during the party.

"Oh yea.  There was a guy and girl going at it in the hallway off the kitchen."
"Really?!  What did he look like?"
"Attractive, purple shirt, glasses."

Her eyes turned toward her roommate sitting within earshot on the couch, and I saw her roommate’s face go from looking cheery to deflated.  Turns out it was the guy she was seeing. 

People do silly things while drinking, and half the time, nobody notices.  If you have a voyeuristic side, being sober is fantastic.

Finally, my old habits were making me fat, stupid, and unattractive.  Turns out my mom was right about the cellulite thing, as I’ve definitely seen a decrease in that.

I wonder what it will feel like to be able to drink again. 

This past month, I had an excuse for my sobriety.  It was a challenge.  People would ask me about it, then follow the journey I posted here, offering words of encouragement along the way.  I’ve said it here many times, but before I gave up drinking, I used to consume an incredible amount of alcohol.  I don’t want to go back to that, and I’m planning to try to avoid it.

Well, unless I happen to be in a room with a keg again.  Then you’ll definitely be holding my ankles.

Keg Party Dreams

I nearly gave it all away this weekend.  I nearly ended the challenge. 

I’ve been sober 29 days, visited plenty of bars, even stood on Bourbon Street, but not until this weekend has temptation hit me so strong.

Friday, one of my friends had tickets to see a musician, whom she also happened to be friends with.  The show was sold out, and afterwards we were able to go backstage and hang out with him.  It made me feel like I was some sort of VIP, and I was getting an experience even most ardent fans usually don’t.  It also made me feel very awkward, given my sober state.

The greenroom was filled with half-eaten snacks, beers, other girls, and a bottle of Jameson he was swigging from liberally.  At one point he started filling tumblers with shots of whiskey and passing them around for a toast.  I stood there, tumbler in hand, wondering what to do.  How could I tell a rockstar I can’t toast because I’m staying sober?  Someday, I’d recite this story to my grandkids and they would think I’m super lame.

My friend turned to me and said the same statement I’ve heard from several other friends over the course of the past month.

"You can drink it.  I won’t tell anyone.  No one has to know." 

If I’d acted on that every time I’d heard it, a lot of you would be holding secrets right now.  I looked at the ground and it was wet from spilled beers, and I decided to do a trick I’d seen in the movies.  While everyone else was drinking their shot, I threw mine over my left shoulder.  Temptation: 0, me: 1.

Later on in the evening, I told one of the other girls about my challenge, and she said she had once taken an entire year off from drinking due to a medical condition.  I marveled at the idea of year, seeing that this has been the longest month of my life.  I asked her to describe her experience, and her answer showed me she knew exactly what I was experiencing.

"It was comfortable.  I felt so healthy.  I felt like my body was working like it should be.  I wrote some great songs.  But I also got really sad sometimes."

The next night, a group I volunteer with hosted an event at a bar.  I was a bartender.  How ironic is that!?  At no point did I feel tempted to drink.  I was far too busy shoveling ice into cups.

The end of the night, most of the party had left except for a handful who had gathered in the back where the kegs were.  I was walking around gathering up cups and trash, when I heard people cheering.  When I walked to the back, I saw people were doing keg stands.  I immediately felt nostalgic for college.  In college, I loved to show off by doing keg stands.  It’s stupid, but people were always impressed at the amount I could drink while hanging upside down by my ankles. 

"I want to do one," I whispered to my one of my friends.
"That would be such an awesome way to end your challenge if you did! Do it!" she said.

Then I said it louder, “I want to do one.”
People heard me that time, and suddenly a room of strangers were chanting my name. 

Alcohol doesn’t cause you to make poor decisions.  Peer pressure does.

It was happening.  I was going to do a keg stand just like the good ole days.  I started to move towards the keg with a roomful of eyes staring at me encouragingly.

"No! No! She’s sober! She’s sober!"  Two arms wrapped around me and I was dragged out of the room. 

I stood outside for a few minutes. I still wanted to do it, especially since I don’t typically get the opportunity to drink directly from a tap while people are chanting my name.   Then I started thinking about what I’d almost done, and imagining how I would have explained myself in a blog post. Would you all have forgiven me for giving up on this marathon in the 26th mile?  If this month were February, I would have made it by now.

But it’s not.  It’s July.

So you wanna stop drinking?

Over the past month, I’ve had several people reach out to me and say they want to try this challenge, if only for a week.  I encourage it wholeheartedly.

You can do it.  I did it.  I know it’s cliche, but if I can do it, anyone can.  Anyone who knew me before July 1 can tell you I used to drink like a fish.  Sometimes, I’d go to brunch on the weekend, have several mimosas, go home to nap, wake up, shower and fix up, and head out the door for several more drinks that evening.  Nothing wrong with that, as sometimes it’s the lifestyle we lead, but that behavior can’t be healthy.  And now look at me - 8 pounds lighter.  Go figure.

Build a support network.  If it wasn’t for this blog and random strangers holding me accountable, I would have never made it.  Tell everyone you know what you are doing.  All your friends, your twitter followers, everyone, even your mom (because we all know moms will remember everything you ever do and ask you how it’s going).

BYOB.  Anytime I was invited to visit, have drinks, or party, I would bring my own beverage.  Whatever your favorite non-alcoholic drink is, bring it.  It will help discourage you from giving in if you have a drink you enjoy.

Have patience.  The rest of the world drinks, and when you are the only one sober, it will seem like every drunk person in the room will want to come talk to you.  Your friends will be drunk and doing all those things you used to find hilarious, and saying things like, “See, we can still have fun when I’m drunk and you’re sober!”  Don’t be annoyed, just laugh at it and sip your diet coke.  Alcohol makes people so silly, and you are getting an eye opening view of it.

Reward yourself.  Want a candy bar?  Go for it.  New dress?  All yours.  Focus on crossing out one vice at a time.  Too many restrictions will lead to failure.

You might get depressed.  I got super depressed.  You’ll live. Set yourself a deadline, such as the next morning or two days later, and commit to waking up anew and fresh as a daisy.  Listen to really ridiculous music, like 90’s dance.  You might have to force yourself to do it, but it’s impossible to be depressed while listening to Haddaway’s “What is Love?”

Life imitating art

Day 25 sober.  I didn’t think I’d make it this far, so cheers to that!

One of my favorite things besides alcohol is art, and I saw this poster the other day that made me pause for a moment.  The longer I stared at it, the more meaning it had for me.

Here’s a small part of it:

It’s a man reading a book on a faraway planet.  He’s alone.

This design really spoke to me, as it served as a reflection of the last month of my life.  The man in that image represents me. Being sober is comfortable, but it can also alienate you.  In this picture, the man looks comfortable, but he is also isolated, which can be perceived as equal parts good and bad.  Really you can use this picture as a metaphor for anything in your life - living alone, being single, unemployment, or any other type of freedom you enjoy (or try to enjoy, like sobriety). 

You could also imagine the man is on this planet waiting to be discovered.  In our lives, we spend a great deal of time waiting, whether it be for a new opportunity to arise, or a new idea to change our frame of thinking, or maybe even a date like August 1.  We try to find comfort in things like routines while we wait for these things to happen.  In the end, the opportunity, idea, or date finally lands on our planet, and the change and discovery that comes from it, often makes it worthwhile. 

I’m hoping this month will have been worthwhile, and I will enter August with a new frame of mind.