Sober Holidays Survival Guide

Christy over at Running on Sober, has graciously stepped back to her blog even though she’s on hiatus to provide some excellent advice for that first, oh so lovely, sober holiday experience.

Look people, no shit this is going to be tough.  It’s going to suck ass.  But with help from brilliant people like Christy, you can do this.

And please, smile, laugh and at least try to enjoy yourselves.  Remember that you are a fucking sober superhero and you deserve CHOCOLATE IN MASSIVE QUANTITIES!!!

Read this – it’s genius…and Gracie’s pretty special too.


A November Full of Gratitude

I missed (or avoided) the whole month of gratitude thing.  Mainly because I tend to get lazy about stuff like this about halfway through the month.   BUT…since Thursday IS Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and I am an extremely grateful woman, I decided to cram it all into one big fat gratitude list for the entire month.

So without further ado, here are the 30 things I am grateful for (and these are in no particular order so don’t get your panties in a wad):

  1. Family – nuclear, extended, thrust upon me or chosen.  I love you all to the core of my being.
  2. Friends – I don’t throw that word around easily.  If I call you friend, it means that I trust you.  It also means that I am fiercely loyal and would likely do just about anything for you.  I also love you all.
  3. An abundance of…well…everything – On Sunday I conducted my annual purge where I ruthlessly cull the contents of my closet and get rid of anything I haven’t worn in a year.  This year I was more ruthless than usual.  The hubs hauled away three large garbage bags full of clothes, shoes and bags and one bag of trash.  How can there be people in the world that are starving and cold when I have so many clothes?  I don’t know but instead of hanging in my closet, maybe someone else can use them or they can be sold to help others.
  4. My dogs – they love unconditionally and want only to please.  Well…except the beagle.  She loves you when she’s hungry and wants only to eat. 
  5. A beautiful home – it’s big enough and warm and lovely and even though we’re upside down in it (meaning we owe more than it’s worth) and the furnishing are…um…well worn, I love it.  It’s more than a house…it’s our home.
  6. Proactiv+
  7. Good dermatologists who take the pleas of a menopausal woman seriously.
  8. A good job with good people.
  9. Good, reliable transportation to and from that job.
  10. The fact that I live in a country with an abundance of everything and the freedom of everything that I sometimes take for granted.
  11. Long eyelashes.
  12. Good legs.
  13. Six amazing kids and their respective significant others.
  14. Seven amazing grandkids (so far).
  15. One incredible husband.
  16. Fall weather.
  17. Starbucks.
  18. The blogging world and all of the incredible people in it both sober and otherwise.
  19. Fridays.
  20. Sundays.
  21. The Redskins and all of NFL football.
  22. Good health.
  23. Good teeth – well…good enough anyway. (Coming from a family of false teeth wearers…this is a biggie).  Maybe this one should say good dental insurance.
  24. Plenty of food.  Even though I grew up poor and in “the hood” I have never gone to bed hungry nor wondered where my next meal would be.  I am blessed.
  25. PepsiMax
  26. Being smoke-free since 2001.
  27. Being alcohol-free since 2010.
  28. My faith.
  29. My relationship with the Big Guy.
  30. My life…it’s the only one I have and I want to make the most of it.


“Be thankful for what you have. Your life, no matter how bad you think it is, is someone else’s fairy tale.” ~ Wale Ayeni

Are we having fun yet?

I often hear sober people (especially early sober people) describe themselves as feeling “flat”.  Like the air has gone out of their souls and they are just left to lie around…flat. 

I so get that!  In the beginning I felt the same way…like I’d never have fun again.  I mean really people…how does anyone have fun without drinking?  I really and truly did not think it was possible.  In fact, I used to look at people at parties who weren’t drinking and feel sorry for them because they couldn’t be having has much fun as I was having.

Damn but I was an ass.


Of course I was wrong.  Duh.  But it took awhile to learn how to have fun.  Hell, I had to figure out what fun and happiness and joy and peace really felt like.  It took awhile for me to be able to distinguish between real fun and the fake kind that comes from drinking a bottle or three of wine every night.  I used to get so excited when I knew I had wine at home or that I was going to buy some or that we were going to a party or out to dinner.  I was excited because I was going to have FUN! 

Hindsight being what it is, I know now that it wasn’t fun.  Not at all.  It was the addiction whispering in my ear and telling me it was fun.  In reality it was sad.  Very, very sad.

It took me a long time to see that though.

It took me even longer to feel it. 

Because in order to figure out what real fun was, I had to understand what was not fun.  And to figure out what was not fun I had to understand what drinking had done and would continue to do to me if I ever started up again.  I had to come to realize that sitting alone in a room night after night drinking to the exclusion of everyone, including my family is not fun.  It’s addiction.  Big difference.

Once I finally got that through my thick skull, I began to notice things that I had forgotten about.  Things like…

  • What a really, really good belly laugh feels like.
  • What it feels like to have a child hug me, spontaneously, because I’ve spent the last 30 minutes rolling around on the floor with them.  Or coloring with them.  Or just being with them.
  • What it feels like to hear my son tell me that he loves me because it’s 11:30 pm and I’m still awake and coherently listening to his hopes, dreams, fears, etc.
  • What it feels like to swap family stories with my daughter and know that I’ll remember it the next day.
  • What it feels like to look into my husband’s eyes and see only pride…not concern or irritation.
  • What it feels like to dance without having to be held up or worrying I’m going to fall off my 4 inch heels.
  • What it feels like to go for a drive on a fall day and not worry about when we’re going to stop and get a drink or when we’re going home so I can drink.
  • What it feels like to hang with the little ones at grown up parties.  They know how to have fun.
  • What it feels like to walk the dogs in the morning with the entire day ahead of me because I didn’t sleep until noon (and still feel like shit).
  • What it feels like to share dinner with my colleagues and really listen and share with them because I’m not looking for the waiter to refill my glass or trying to figure out if it’s socially acceptable to have a third glass of wine.

And the more I figured out what real fun was, the clearer I could see what addiction was.

It’s not fun.

It sucks ass.

And it tried to kill me.  Dead is the ultimate in feeling flat.

Sober is just feeling.


Don’t Believe Your Own Publicity

A comment on my post yesterday got me to thinking about why we relapse.  Why, when we know how good it feels to be sober do we go back?  Why do we choose that substance when we know how much better, more fulfilling and wonderful our lives are without it?  I mean seriously, how can someone with 10 or 20 years of sobriety, one day pick up a drink and be back to their old ways in a matter of days…sometimes hours?  Or someone with 30 days?  Or six months?  Or (insert time here)?

When I got serious about quitting, I relapsed once.  It was between the third and fourth month sober.  A friend’s husband had just begun to sell wine through home parties and she was hosting a wine tasting to get him started.  (I know you already see where this is going and I know you’re thinking, “WTF?” but stay with me.)  I had already started the conversations in my head, with the hubs and with the kids that…

  • “I can drink.  I just don’t have an ‘off’ switch so I have to be careful.”
  • “I’m not really an alcoholic.  I just needed to take a break to prove to myself I could quit if I wanted to.”
  • “I’m not really an alcoholic.  I didn’t need any help quitting.  I just did it so that must mean I’m okay.”
  • “I’ll just be sure to limit myself to one…or two at a time.”
  • “Insert lame excuse here.”


I ignored all the authors I’d read who were just like me.  Who drank just like me.  Who acted just like me when they were drunk.  Authors like Carolyn Knapp, and Jane Velez-Mitchell, and Augusten Burroughs who wrote both eloquently and painfully about people just like me.  In fact, it was very minor character in Burroughs’ book “Dry” who said something I credit with starting my long road to sobriety.

It was either his first or one of his first AA meetings (it’s been a long time since I read the book – long before I actually got sober) and he was looking around and marveling at the fact that no one looked like his mind’s version of an alcoholic.  Then a woman got up to speak, during her story she said what turned out to be my catalyst.  She said that although she doesn’t look like society’s view of an alcoholic, the fact was that when she was drinking she was always the first to arrive at a party and the last to leave.  Just.  Like.  Me.

Yeah…I ignored that too.

And so I went to the wine tasting and I tasted.  And before it was time to go I had drained all mine and everyone else’s glasses.  I didn’t get drunk, but that didn’t take long.

After I sobered up the second (and final) time, I spoke with a therapist that told me that the 3-4 month mark was a dangerous place.  It’s a pink cloud place with a direct line to the beast.  It’s easy to believe your own bullshit at that point because you’re feeling invincible!  Like you can do anything!  I mean seriously, you quit drinking!!!  They said you would never do it and you did!

My husband has a phrase he uses when a celebrity makes a bonehead move or puts their foot in their mouth.  He says, “Don’t believe your own publicity.”  I love that phase because it’s so apropos and it fits the relapse profile (at least for me) to a tee.  I believed my own publicity.  It bit me in the ass.

Everyone was congratulating me and telling me how wonderful I was and how much better things were and how good I looked.  And I was thinking that life had never been better and my aren’t I strong and yes, I, in fact, am amazing!  I can do anything I put my mind too!  Including drink!


Not so much.

Ever since then I’ve been very careful about this publicity thing.  I call bullshit on myself on a regular basis both in this blog and in my head.  I tell myself to simmer down and relax.  To Be Still.  That the beast is a fucking liar and is just filling my head with tabloid publicity designed to sell booze not to tell the truth.  And no amount of time away from that wine bottle is going to change that.  And to remember that the Big Guy always has my back.

Yes, sometimes it makes me sad.  I’ll admit that I miss the experience of drinking wine.  Sometimes it makes me mad or it makes me feel weak or I get embarrassed or I feel like a bump on a log at a party.  But then I remember that all of that is just a different kind of publicity and I don’t have to believe it either.

And then I go back to my nice, sane, and quiet life that I came very close to losing because of all of that publicity.  All of those lies.  And I grab my People Magazine to see what the rest of the crazies are doing today.


This time of year

I love the change in seasons.  The part where they are still new and you’re not sick to death of them yet.  That’s why I love where we live.  There are four distinct seasons and just about the time you’re ready to commit yourself to the nut house if you have to endure one more cold, damp night or one more hot humid day…poof…another season comes along and changes your view.

The most dramatic are spring and fall because the biggest change in weather happens during that time.  Spring when things slowly begin to warm and everything is born, and fall when things cool off and, well…die.  Oh but when they die it’s certainly in a blaze of glory if you’re fortunate enough to live in an area where the leaves turn red and gold and yellow before they fall on the ground and create that heavenly smell of earth and leaves and grass.

I also love the fact that it gets dark earlier.  I know…some people think I’m nuts but I do.  I think as the weather begins to turn cold that it’s nature’s way of saying, “Go on in the house now…it’s dark and cold outside.”  So you “go on in the house” and put on your flannel PJ’s and heat up some hot chocolate or tea (or drink a bottle or two of wine…NOT) and if you’re me you buy all kinds of yummy scented candles and oils so your house always smells like pumpkin or cookies or cinnamon spice.

I even like the the lights that come on at night this time of year.  Traffic lights and street lights and car lights all lit up before I leave the office remind me that soon I’ll be lighting the inside of my house in anticipation of Christmas.  I like to think that all this light also makes people a little kinder with each other and maybe even to themselves.  Okay…maybe that’s just me.

I know that by mid-January I’ll be over it all and pissed off about the weather and tired of being cold, but for now I’m just going to go home and snuggle in my warm home and thank God that I’m blessed to be warm and fed and most of all…loved.


And just like that…it’s gone

After I wrote my post on Friday I was in a funk.  I just couldn’t figure out how I was going to learn to let shit go.  How was I going to be free of all this guilt and shame I carry around like the proverbial albatross around my neck.  Even the hubs, who is normally my greatest supporter, was baffled as to why I was carrying around something that was 1) in the past and 2) turned out FINE.  He picked me up from work and by the time we got home I was even more depressed than I was when I got in the car.

Once home I hooked up the dogs and went for a walk to clear my head.  Along the way I started praying…

“Yo Dude, please help me to figure out a way to let all of this ugly guilt and shame about Brian go.  I can’t take it anymore.  It’s too painful and too heavy.  I’m turning in over to you…it’s yours.  Do with it what you will.”

And…naturally the sky chose that particular moment to lighten ever so slightly and with it, so did my mood.  I felt a calm come over me and I felt…love.

And I couldn’t fucking believe it.

But of course we can’t just turn it over right…no, we have to try and take it back. So my brain started inching back to…

“But what if he had died…I let him down.”

And then I clearly heard, “Let it go…I’ve got this.”

It still gives me butterflies when I think about it.  It was VERY clear and, since I’ve heard that voice before, I knew exactly who was talking to me. 

So I walked along with a smile on my face and much lighter in step and I thought, if He helped that quickly with one issue, why not try another?

“Okay Lord – then what do I do about the hubs?  Help me to help him.”

To which He clearly replied..

“That’s on him.  Leave him to Me.”

Well DAMN.  Talk about being put in your place!  When the Big Guy tell you to back off you back the hell off.

Next thought, “Should I talk to…”

“TALK TO HIM about how you feel.”

Whoa.  But you know God…it’s impolite to interrupt.  And you don’t have to raise your voice…I can hear you.

I finished my walk, went home and talked to the hubs about what I’d heard.  I checked my emotions and still no guilt, no shame.  Then read my wrist.  I was still for the rest of the evening.  And I was happy.  And light.

Saturday morning I got up and the hubs and I talked like we haven’t in many months.  It was great for both of us to get some things on the table and get inside each other’s heads.  (I highly recommend it.)

Today I am lighter than I’ve been in months.  I’ve thought a couple of times about the Brian incident and checked myself…nope…no shame…no guilt.  Only a feeling of infinite gratefulness that he’s okay.

Have a wonderful week people.  If you get a chance, have a chat with the Big Guy.  He’s pretty awesome if you ask me.


More on Emotions

My wise and wonderful blogging friend Furtherton over at Guitars and Life, wrote a post the other day on emotions and how he’s learned to deal with them.  I told him in my comments that I needed to really think about what he had written…really.  And so I did.


What I discovered is that I’m still, after all this time, not really allowing myself to feel and process my emotions appropriately.  I’m still stuffing shit down.  The primary reason for this, I discovered after really (no really) thinking about it, is that I never learned how to process them in a meaningful and healthy way.  I mean, I get angry and yell.  I throw tantrums from time to time.  I get moody and irrational.  I get overly excited about possibilities.  I cry (or I’m learning to anyway).

But those are the surface emotions.  The day to day shit that everyone experiences.  They sit on the outside of my heart and just irritate it.  I feel them, but I can give them a whoosh of breath and they are carried away on the wind like dandelion seeds on a late summer afternoon.  And then I return to my happy place and move on.  Like normal people.

But the shit down deep?  That’s an entirely different story.  That’s the stuff that lives inside my heart.  The stuff that eats away at my heart and creates scar tissue that builds a wall of resentment against the world…or maybe just against myself.  Some of it is very, very old.  It’s beginning to disintegrate on it’s own and that’s okay.  But some of it is still as fresh as the day it found its way into my fragile soul and still it chomps and chews and hurts. 

Example…for some reason a couple of nights ago I started thinking about how Brian got sick last year and ended up in the hospital with pneumonia and that he could have died.  Seriously…he could have fucking died!  I got that “thing” in the pit of my stomach and before I could admonish myself (good grief Sherry just let it GO for Christ’s sake) I stopped and thought about Furtherton’s post and decided to really (no really) think about what I was feeling.

So I tried.

I closed my eyes and let the feeling rise…and what rose was…shame.  Yep, that singular emotion that follows me no matter where I turn.  Shame.  I’m ashamed that I didn’t listen to my gut and take him to Urgent Care.  I’m ashamed that I put money (we had no insurance at the time) in front of my child’s health.  I’m the mom.  It’s my job to protect and care for them.  I’m ashamed I let him down.

And then I did what I always do, rather than sitting with the emotion and really feeling it, I acknowledged it and did my best Scarlett O’Hara impersonation.  I decided I’d think about it another time when I could “really give it some thought”.  Because I’m busy.  I don’t have time for all this introspection.  It take time to process all this stuff!

Let me translate that for you people…it hurt too much to process so I didn’t.  I stuffed it back down. 

Yeah…how’s that workin’ for ya Sherry?

Then there’s the day to day stuff.  The fact that the hubs and I are not communicating right now and I’m beginning to resent it.  It’s not a surface thing.  It’s a thing that’s worming its way into my heart and creating a big ole’ pile of steaming resentment.  I keep treating it like it’s just on the surface…a minor irritation.  I keep trying to blow it away but it never leaves.  But instead of sitting with it and figuring out why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling, I just brush it off to old age…or empty nest syndrome…or (insert other euphemism or tired phrase here).  I stuff it back down.

So now to the million dollar question…why am I still stuffing?  I’ve smoked, drank (or is it drunk), shopped and eaten my way through all this stuffing and I’m still doing it!  Why?


I’m afraid of what I’ll find if I poke too hard or prod too much.  Isn’t that what we alcoholics find at the root of everything?  Fear?  We walk through life afraid of everything and so we flee.  Flee to the bottle, or the needle, or the kitchen or the shopping center or casino or Internet.  We run away rather than face what frightens us.

Again my stubborn psyche…how’s that workin’ for ya’?

It’s not.  I’ve got to figure out how to feel the feelings.  To not run away.  To process them.  And then…

Let. Them. Go.

Just when I think I’m done, I discover more work to to in this whole “recovery” thing.  OR maybe that’s just how the normal people do it.  Either way, put me back in the oven…I’m not done yet.


Food Issues

To those of you who watched or participated while I did my 1 1/2 Whole30’s I have an update.

I’ve been off the plan for awhile now and I’m still trying to eat healthy.  I stay away from anything processed.  I avoid traditional fast food (even those nasty salads) but I did have my first Subway sub the other night (meh).  I’m TRYING to stay away from sugar, white foods, potatoes and legumes.


But it’s just like drinking…once you open the door the beast comes sneaking back in…quietly at first and then louder and LOUDER until you find yourself making yourself sick on marked down candy corn from Wal-Mart (okay…maybe that’s just me).

I’m trying but unless I’m hyper vigilant I find myself slipping and then all of a sudden I get a case of the “fuck-its” and start eating whatever I want.  I’ve said to the hubs two weekends in a row now, “Starting Monday I’m back on plan.  I’m getting out of control.”  Only to get to Wednesday or Thursday and find myself eating pasta (or said Subway sandwich) or a small handful of candy corn.

In addition, I’ve done something to my lower back muscles so I’ve been moving really slow the last few days and I’m finding it harder and harder to get up and down the steps to the bus or even the ones to the second floor of my home because my knees are also giving me a case of the fits.

Where does it end?

I’m glad you asked, I’ll tell you where it ends.  It ends one of two places…

Place #1

  • My cholesteral and tryglycerides become out of control and the doctor puts me on medication.
  • I go broke shopping for bigger and bigger clothes all the while saying to myself that I need to accept who I am in whatever shape that is.
  • I look in the mirror and hate myself more and more everyday.  The word “loathe” comes to mind.
  • My knees get worse and I find myself channeling my mother as I climb the steps in my home that I love so much.

And that’s just in the short term.

Place #2

  • I get my shit together and stop eating crap.
  • I see my doctor and have my blood work done to see exactly where I am.
  • I remain off the scale (that’s been excellent btw) and just judge things by how my clothes fit.
  • I keep walking, walking, walking (still loving my FitBit).
  • I cut out candy in all forms (gotta start somewhere).
  • I continue to stay away from white foods (rice, bread and pasta).
  • I manage my portions (I’m much better with this also).

I choose Place #2.  It’s a better neighborhood.  A slightly longer and more hairy commute but when you get there, the property values are through the roof!


One is never enough…two is too many.

You know what I hated more than hangovers?  More than slurred speech, drunk texting and sleepy slits for eyes? 

I hated the feeling I had when I only had one or two drinks.  And I always have.

I could never, from the first day I started drinking, only have one drink.  I hated that “sobering up” feeling you get when you’ve had a glass of wine at lunch and now it’s 4:00 pm and no one else wants to go drinking.  Hated. It.

I never understood people who could do that.  Now I see that they are “normies” and that people who are not alcoholics do that all the time.  But then it truly baffled me.  I thought there was something wrong with them!  I actually used to tell people that I didn’t see the point of stopping for happy hour before going home.  What’s the point of having one or two drinks if you’re just going to go home and not drink anymore? 

Now I know why they looked at me like I had three heads.

Guess I should have known then that I had a problem.

Aw fuck who am I kidding…I knew.

Because it was never about the taste, or the “winding down from a hard day”, or the office get together.  It was ALWAYS about getting drunk.  It was always about getting back to that place when we had the best time EVER.  It was always about recapturing something I thought existed but, in reality, probably never did.  That time when the hubs and I shared all of our intimate secrets with each other and were just so in LOVE.  That time when all of the gang got together and just has so much FUN.  That time on the business trip when we went after work for drinks and dinner and just BONDED.

You know that time.  You’ve got them too.  Those times were just so FUN.  No way would they have been that fun if we’d all stopped at one drink and just gone home right?  I mean, we needed the alcohol to prime the pump right?  To loosen us all up?

Yeah…maybe.  But so what.  After those fun times everyone else went back to their normal lives and their normal drinking patterns and filed those memories away where they belonged…in the past.  But me?  I kept trying to get them back.   Tried to recreate them only to be disappointed when I couldn’t.

One drink?  Puh-lease. 

If we’re only going to have one or two than I’ll just have Diet Coke.  That way I won’t have to feel irritable and discontent later when I begin to sober up and I can sit here and laugh at you all while you drink.  Then I’ll feel all smug and superior because I abstained.  And see?  If I can abstain then I must not have a problem right?

What a complete and fucked up mess I was.

I have, however, managed to turn that particular feeling into a positive for me because that’s where my head goes whenever I think, “I’ll just have one.  It’s okay.  I’ll be fine.”  It goes to that dry mouth, slight headache, irritable and discontent feeling I always had with just one.  And since that was worse than my hangovers to me, I’ll stay sober thank you. 

Because, if I’m brutally honest (which I always try to be), I’m not picking up unless I can get good and drunk.  Otherwise, what’s the point.

Just sayin’.


There’s Another World Out There

Sorry I’ve been absent.  I’ve not been writing or commenting but I HAVE been reading.  Even if I’m crazy short on time, I make time to sit and read your blogs.  I can barely go a day without checking in and seeing how you all are doing.  I truly get so much insight, fun and laughter and learning from you guys.  Okay – I’ll jump on the November blessing bandwagon, I am blessed to have found this community of sober bloggers.  I’m not sure where I would be if I hadn’t found you.  I know I’d be sober…but I don’t think I’d be as happy.

And that’s a fact.

Which brings me to this post.  I went to see my psychiatrist the other day so he could perform the twice a year “laying of the hands” and write me my prescriptions.  I like him…a lot.  I feel like I can tell him anything and he gets it.  He’s not a talking doctor but I don’t need one of those (right now anyway…who knows what the future holds); he’s exactly what I need in a pharmacologist – someone to whom I can describe, in intimate details, what’s going on in my body and in my head and he works with me to come up with a plan.  Sometimes it’s a switch or a tweak in my medication.  Sometimes it’s behavior modification.  Sometimes it’s a trip to a therapist.

He rocks.

But he was unaware of this wonderful community of sober bloggers!  I mentioned to him that this was part of my recovery and healing and he started asking ME questions!  He’s not a “my way or the highway” kind of guy, so he’s open to all forms of therapy.  Once I explained my experience, we talked about the kind of people who don’t fit society’s perception of an alcoholic (you know…99.9% of us) and how many of them are choosing more private ways of getting sober.  I explained about the boards, and chat rooms and online AA meetings and, of course, the blogs.

We talked about what’s it meant in my own recovery and how much healthier I am as a sober person for having found this outlet and the wonderful friends I’ve made here.  The unconditional support and lack of judgement is mind-blowing in and of itself, but when you tack on the fact that there are no rules, that you can come out here, take what you need and even be of service that’s when the miracle happens.

So I told him the next time he has a patient who is questioning whether or not they are drinking too much, he might suggest they Google it (which we all know they already have) and then click on any of the Wordpress or Blogger links.  

We’ll all be here waiting and ready to reach out that hand and love them till they can love themselves again.


“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia