Sunday, April 24, 2016

exploring the grey...

{unsure where this image originated from... 
but saw it on Instagram on a friends account}

I saw the above image on Instagram the other day, and it's been on my mind ever since. I've been missing the truth telling blogs, the honest, authentic stories that used to be the rule in blogging, not the exception. I've missed the stories that show who we really are. 

After many recent, amazing in person discussions about honesty, and the importance of sharing our stories, I want to tell you a story I've been sitting with the last few months. 

Those of you who have been reading here for a while, or who know me well, know that I quit drinking over six years ago. Back in January I hit six years of sobriety.  I celebrated this milestone quietly, I didn't want it to be a big deal, as other years had been. Somewhere along the lines I became disenchanted with my identity as a sober person. At six years sober I started asking myself, what am I doing? Why am I not drinking? And my answer was much, much different than it was six years ago. 

Six years ago I needed to not drink. A young mother with two babies, a head full of lifelong anxiety, and perhaps a bit of postpartum depression, my drinking was a problem. And the only way I knew how to stop drinking, and to keep myself from being wishy washy about it, was with a sweeping gesture by way of a declaration of alcoholism. 

Now, looking back, I know I needed to do that to stay safe. To stay sober. To figure my stuff out. And when it comes to alcohol abuse, there's a very limited vocabulary that is available. 

But there's a whole spectrum of alcohol abuse. 

The word alcoholic never fit for me, but nothing else came close and so that loaded word kept me sober for six years. 

And it's a good thing. During those six years I learned how to handle myself, how to be a mother, how to be an adult, how to cope with and diffuse anxiety attacks, how to be me. 

Around my anniversary I started wondering about my sobriety. What it meant. If it was forever. What would it feel like to have a drink now, verses all those years ago?  If it was an alcoholic's brain making me question all this, or if I really could safely have these questions and conversations. I talked with my husband, my cautious and thoughtful, well meaning and patient husband, and we had several discussions about what it would mean if I had a glass of something at some point. 

And then I knew that I needed to. I needed to know in order to keep evolving as a person and grow into myself.

Now, if you've read this long, I want to tell you something very important: this is my story. This is my journey. Please don't compare yours to mine. This conscious, deliberate exploration of the grey area is NOT for everyone. And even talking about this makes me nervous, because there are people who have stopped drinking who should never, never, explore what it would be like to drink again. 

But I'll tell you something else, it doesn't do anyone any good to hide their truths. I've done a lot of truth telling in this space {and other blogs... I've changed them so many times...} and only good things have come of it. Opening the door for discussions, and making human connections is what I'm striving for. We're all struggling with something. We're all human, I think sometimes we forget that fact. The strange part of these last few months has been feeling like I'm hiding something, or holding back, because I haven't written through this journey like I have through many other aspects of my sobriety. Where there's hiding there's danger. And there's no need for that in my life.

Back to the story... 

Over the last few months I've been exploring the grey area of my place on the spectrum of alcohol abuse. 

There was no bender, no relapse, no drunken nights or hungover mornings. Every now and then I'd have a drink. A glass of wine when we were out to dinner, a cocktail when I was out with a friend, I cooked with wine for the first time in years and tried my brother's homemade mead, all in safe environments where my anxiety was low.

A funny thing happened when I started to explore this area, alcoholics popped up everywhere. Not necessarily in person, but in the shows we watched and the books we read. There was Flaked on Netflix {a really fantastic series that both Lucas and I enjoyed} in which the main character is Chip, an alcoholic who bikes around Venice Beach. Then Because of Winn-Dixie, with an absentee alcoholic mother. And I know there were a few more, but I can't remember for the life of me what they were {and neither can Lucas, I asked!}

All cautionary tales. All reminders. All warnings.

What did happen during this experiment? I learned that red wine gives me migraines, that any alcohol messes with my much needed and beloved sleep, that my anxiety ramps up with even one glass of anything, but also that I can have one drink and stop. That was something that never happened six years ago. 

{Something I was also noting through all of this, was how often alcohol isn't really the issue. Alcohol is so often a numbing agent for the root problem, for the mental health issues or trauma that often starts it all. This of course is highly controversial to talk about... getting down to what is the disease of alcoholism and what isn't, who has it and who doesn't. I'm entirely unqualified to go down this road, but it's something to note.}

Most importantly, after having a tiny taste of life with alcohol, I'm choosing to go back on the wagon.

I may not be a textbook, classic alcoholic, but I am certain that I've abused alcohol in the past, and it's something I need to be very careful about. My relationship with alcohol is not cut and dry, but I am better off dry. I'm more able to be present, to enjoy life, to be me, when alcohol isn't involved. 

But I need to have that choice. To ask myself what kind of a place I'm in, to asses situations for what they are, including who I'm around and what purpose a drink would serve. If it's to numb or to check out? Nope. If I'm stressed? Nope. If it's because my brother poured his heart into his new batch of mead? Maybe. If it's because it's fun? Nope. Champagne toast at a wedding? Possibly. Is my anxiety even a tad bit high? Then absolutely not. Do I need to sleep? If yes, then no. 

There are very few times that I can justify drinking, for me {I promise I'm not passing judgement on anyone who drinks. Cross my heart!} 

So. Sobriety.

Coming back to sobriety needed to feel less like a confining box, and more like freedom.

And so, I am reserving the right for myself to explore the grey area. To not say forever, but instead for today. 

I'm better off dry, navigating the world through sober eyes. 

And knowing that? I feel totally, utterly, happy and free. 

~~~~~~
As a note to all of this, please know that I take alcohol abuse and addiction very seriously, and because of that, and the respect I have for all of those who have issues with alcohol, I want to reiterate that this is my story. There are so many paths, so many ways to get sober and stay sober. And as I said within the post, I would absolutely hate for this post to be taken as permission for anyone to drink. I've written this post to further the conversation, to share my story, and to be open and honest, which is the best way I know to live. The blogging/internet climate is so different than it was when I was first writing about sobriety, that I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't nervous about posting this. But here it is.... in the name of truth and authenticity!


If you are struggling with alcohol know that you are not alone. 
There's so many places to find help. 
Here's a few: