Episode 325 – I used to drink at people when I was upset and those were bad nights. I believed alcohol calmed me down and got me out of the anger.
Gillian took her last drink on November 9, 2019. She is from Boston and loves playing video games. This is her journey of living alcohol free (AF).
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Finding Your Better You – Odette’s weekly message.
Odette has been thinking about death. She has anxiety about dying. She read a chapter in the Untethered Soul. The author, Michael A. Singer said having an active relationship with death is healthy. “It is truly a great cosmic paradox that one of the best teachers in all of life turns out to be death. No person or situation could teach as much as death has to teach you. While someone could tell you, you are not your body, death shows you. While someone could remind you of the insignificance of the things that you cling to, death takes them away in a second. Death makes us all the same.” Keeping death at the forefront of our mind helps us stay in the moment. We can stop focusing on the future or dwelling on the past and appreciate every moment.
Full presence with her children gives Odette great joy. In the moment, Odette is learning to appreciate what she has. She knows we can avoid thinking about death, but it’s inevitable.
When we choose sobriety, we remove a huge block that prevents us from being in the moment. Odette still has other blocks, yet she is motivated to stay sober by those moments when she can understand what being fully present is. The more time she spends away from alcohol, the more presence is available to her. Value what you have, honor where you are and be grateful!
[10:25] Odette introduces Gillian
Gillian took her last drink on November 9, 2019. She lives in Boston, she is a biochemist and for fun she reads, plays video games and hangs out with her husband and kitty.
[11:29] Tell us about your history with drinking?
Gillian started drinking at age 22. She was a late comer to drinking. She had a glass of wine at 18 and had such intense shame about drinking. She drank more in grad school and started with Bud Lite, and her drinking quickly escalated. She was frequently sick and within a year she was a daily drinker. Her tolerance doubled. She tried to moderate for five years. Eventually, she realized moderation would not work.
[13:27] Tell me more about the shame your experienced with your first drink?
Gillian is a rule follower. She had trouble liking who she was. She didn’t like or accept her body. At 18 she was feeling shame about food she ate. It was a difficult time in her life.
[14:39] Tell me more about your moderation attempts.
Before Gillian was a scientist, she was a teacher and she used alcohol as her fuel. She learned that when you drink, the stress goes away, and you feel better. She switched to Vodka and made cosmos daily. She knew she was drinking too much. She used a rubber band for the number of drinks, had her husband pour drinks, she bought strong wine, bought weak wine. She ended several friendships because she thought she was drinking too much with them. In her journal her goal was to limit to 25 drinks a week. She abandoned that quickly.
[17:18] Why were you so firm on making moderation work?
Gillian said she couldn’t imagine a life without alcohol. She thought it would be the death of fun. All her friends drank. It was fundamental to her socializing. She continued to try moderation. She went to a therapist and was told she wasn’t an alcoholic.
[18:58] Did your husband know you were struggling?
Gillian said she talked with her husband a lot about her moderation attempts. He knew they were well thought out. He loved her and wanted to support her but felt uncomfortable saying she should quit.
[20:48] How is your relationship now that you have been sober for over a year?
Gillian said her relationship is much better. They were having a lot of issues before she quit. She says it’s like they are dating again. They talk about their lives and their thoughts. They connect so much better. Her husband is a normal drinker.
[22:45] What made you decide to quit?
Gillian said her mental health declined for the last four years of her drinking. She developed anxiety and was up all night with panic attacks. She continued drinking and eventually she developed suicidal thoughts, which scared her. She challenged herself to not drink for 90 days. She did the 90 days and on day 91, she got drunk. She drank for a few more months and the suicidal thoughts and anxiety returned. She quit for good in November because she was afraid, she might act on her thoughts.
[25:42] You had good insights about the outcome of continued drinking. Does that ring a bell?
Gillian said she believed people would label her as a loser, a weak person. She wanted to go to parties and wineries and did not want to be the only one who wasn’t drinking.
Anger has been her biggest struggle. She would get overcome with rage. She was mad at her husband and family. She has processed the anger, and no longer has rage attacks.
Gillian said she drank at people when she was upset. She believed alcohol calmed her down and helped her deal with the anger. It was exactly opposite.
[28:37] 15 months in has your motivation shifted?
Gillian said she uses data. She knows if she returns to drinking, anxiety and suicidal ideation will return. All the gains she has made in sobriety would disappear if she returned to drinking. A recent quote she likes is, “Addiction is giving up everything for one thing. Recovery is giving up one thing for everything.”
[30:45] Did anything happen on November 9 that was different?
Gillian said it was the 11-year anniversary of a traumatic event. She started the day with a boozy brunch, then bought a bottle of wine, then another and by 6 pm she was destroyed. She made the decision to quit at 5:30 in the morning. She felt calm when she made that resolve and she celebrates the 9th, not the 10th.
[32:46] How did you celebrate your one-year?
Gillian and her husband went to an Airbnb in Maine with a cool hot tub. They had a great time, talked a lot, and made new memories.
[33:59] How were the first thirty days for you?
Gillian said quitting at the start of the holiday season was difficult. She went to lots of parties sober. She was the only one not drinking. She doesn’t have cravings because her acceptance is so strong. She struggles with people questioning her drinking. She made new friends who were not big drinkers. She did experience a lot of night sweats.
[37:53] Did you feel strong after the holiday season?
Gillian said it gave her lots of confidence. She feels like a pro now. There were a few times she cried. The pride has rushed in and she started going to Starbucks to treat herself when other partygoers were getting drunk or weird. She has set lots of boundaries in sobriety which feels good. She now respects herself. She deserves people who care about her and want the best for her.
[40:03] When did your career shift happen?
Gillian said that during a moderation attempt, she realized teaching was too stressful. When she moved over to science, it was a good shift with the goal of being able to moderate her drinking.
[41:32] What happens when you have challenges in life?
Gillian now bakes cookies. The act of baking helps her calm down. Her husband is incredibly supportive. Playing video games and therapy help.
Seeing others drink wine can be triggering. She feels jealous. Her company sent wine as gifts, but she was able to avoid those gifts.
[43:39] How vocal are you at work about being alcohol free?
Gillian doesn’t tell people about her sobriety. She was able to avoid the wine deliveries by telling someone who was part of the fun committee. She was able to request an alcohol-free alternative. She has given feedback that mocktails should be included at work cocktail parties. She has given feedback without “outing” herself. A wine delivery could be disastrous for someone in early sobriety, so she is courageous about giving feedback.
[46:50] Tell me about your anxiety?
Gillian said the anxiety is completely gone.
[47:33] What about sleep?
Gillian said she sleeps like a teenager. She was so sleep deprived at the end of her drinking. Sleep is now great, and it still surprises her how good it feels. It took a few months to get out of the disrupted sleep cycle. She feels amazing now.
[49:02] How has your body image changed?
Gillian said she has always struggled with body image. In May, she realized she was looking good. Now she can look in the mirror and likes what she sees. It has been an unexpected perk of sobriety.
[51:26] Rapid Fire Round
- What would you say to your younger self?
It’s okay, you are doing fine.
- What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
- What has been a lightbulb moment for you in this journey?
I realize my story is not unique to me. It’s good to not be special. I am not alone. It was good to know that others had similar experience.
- What parting piece of guidance would you give to listeners who are considering ditching the booze?
If you are worrying that you might have a problem, you know deep down that you do. It’s ok that you do. Its better on the other side.
You may have to say Adios to booze if …
You are obsessing about moderation every single day and you spend most of your time thinking about your drinking.
One of our team members, Alan Copeland wrote a poem he is going to share with you today.
Connection is The Key
For so long I was looking for the key that would open the door to a better life, a new life. One that wasn’t spiraling into oblivion.
A dark abyss of anxiety, depression, self-loathing, and fear. The bottom was as far as I could keep falling – no rope to grab – no hand to grasp.
A true free fall with gravity doing what gravity does. A downward spiral.
Where is that key? What’s on the other side of that door? Will I ever find what it’s like to be free from this room that’s closing in on me?
Can I buy the key?
That’s it….I’ll buy it!
Wait…where do I buy it?
Apple? Is there an App?
Google will tell me, right?
Or how about I make the key! Yeah….I’ll make it to fit the door. I really can do this alone.
Wait….how will I make a key when I can’t even find the door!?
I was all alone and to feel truly alone is paralyzing.
Being alone in addiction and pending sobriety is a fear that I’ve never experienced before. Please, please…someone help me find the key.
I never found that key.
Luckily, it found me. And finally, I opened the door. The door to a better life, a new life.
Connection is the key.
To say I’m grateful for connection doesn’t give it the credit it deserves.
The key was with a group of individuals that I had never met, never would have met and in many cases – still haven’t met.
Connection is the key.
True connection is something I had never defined or thought about.
When you can share experiences, challenges and growth with another person that is also battling the raging bitch of addiction…well…that’s a connection that’s hard to put into words.
I have now experienced true connection. The ability to tell a person, “I see you”, “I hear you”, “I understand you” and “you are loved”.
Connection is the key.
The key to learning who I am….who I REALLY am.
It’s not easy, but when you have someone to lean on, someone who catches you when you fall, someone who “feels the feels” with you, cries with you and the best of all…laughs with you. Authentic self to authentic self. We realize – we can’t do this alone.
Connection is the key.
Connection is powerful.
Connection is the opposite of addiction.
Have you found the key yet? If not…don’t look now….it might have just found, you.
Remember that you are not alone and together is always better. Connection is the key. We can do this.
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