A sober hangover

fullsizerender-1My last night of heavy drinking was the housewarming party E and I threw to welcome our friends over to our new home. I am not sure how many glasses of wine I had that night, but I assume it exceeded a bottle’s worth. One of the last people to leave kept refilling my glass, trying to empty bottles because she knew I wouldn’t need them in a few days.

The hangover came strong and determined the next morning. Fewer glasses of red wine lead to hangovers in my 30s and this one kept me in bed until 2 p.m. The only times I got up from bed were to throw up and answer the door when the delivery man arrived with Jimmy John’s, my favorite hangover sandwich. I stayed under the covers for most of the day, bing watching “Brooklyn Nine Nine” and removing myself from all responsibilities that day.

Despite the headache, vomiting, and general body pain, it was nice to spend the entire day in bed, doing whatever I wanted. When I have hangovers I let myself reel in the recovery, feeding my body what it wants, sleeping as much as I need. It was sort of a reward I gave myself, the time to heal and rest.

As a sober person, I found much to fill my mornings. I go to the gym, I write, I have coffee with friends, I clean the apartment, I grocery shop. I rarely let myself sleep in, relax, recover. There isn’t the urging need when my head isn’t pounding. As last year closed, with the business of the holiday season and our heavy travel schedule, I kept longing for that Sunday morning of lying in bed and letting myself do absolutely nothing because it’s what my body needed, what I needed. One day, I opened my calendar, and picked out a weekend day each month, blocked it out in pink, labeled it “Heather Day.”

My main resolution for 2017, as I’ve told friends, is to take one day a month to do absolutely nothing. I wouldn’t make plans with friends, I wouldn’t shove chores onto that day, I wouldn’t decide on anything to do that day until I woke up that morning. From there, I would do whatever my heart wanted. Shoulds, responsibilities, they have the other days of the month, but that one would be for me only.

Today is my first Heather Day, or sober hangover, of 2017, and it’s been everything I’ve wanted to be. Leading up to this day, I made sure that the laundry had been washed, the apartment cleaned and the groceries bought. I told friends that I was busy today and couldn’t meet up, and any running or writing I know I needed to do this weekend was either taken care of or I accepted it wouldn’t get done until Tuesday. However, if I woke up Monday morning and wanted to edit my book or organize my underwear drawer, I would. The plan for the day was simple: only give in to the wants.

Besides handling chores, the only pre-planning I did for this day was I asked E to make himself busy for a few hours so that I could have the apartment to myself. E is a homebody and is quite content spending his days without ever leaving the house. On weekends, I am usually out doing this or that while he is at home. While I have no qualms about this, I sometimes am jealous that he gets the apartment to himself when I am gone. It occurred to me that, while I love being in his company, the only time I am truly alone, including the commute downtown and back and at work, is in the hour after he has left for work and before I leave the apartment. I wanted a couple of hours to take a bath or write in my journal or watch a movie, none of these things that I couldn’t do with him here but I still really craved some alone time. I was nervous to ask him because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, or force him out of his own home, but I also needed to take a chance on my enjoyment. Of course, he agreed and made zero fuss about it. All I had to do was ask, he said.

This morning I slept several hours beyond my normal wake up time and then I didn’t get out of bed for another two as I finished reading a book. It reminded me of all those lazy mornings in Lesotho, reading and listening to the cattle shuffle outside of my window. When I finally did get up, E and I went to brunch, something we rarely do these days in an effort to save money and because I am usually off to doing other things. I love sitting across the table from him, sipping coffee, watching him jab his fork into fluffy pancakes.

After brunch, he dropped me off at home and went off to do something (I do not know what) while I took cat naps on the couch and watched a documentary on food (I love food documentaries and always looking for suggestions). Then, I went out into the rain and ran. I didn’t run because I needed to, I actually planned on a rest day, but it was rainy and the steam rising off of the cold pavement was an invitation. Four miles later, my socks and shoes were dripping but I couldn’t care less. It was exactly what my body, heart and soul needed.

Then I came home, took a hot shower, and decided to write. Candles burning, a record playing, tea steaming. When E comes home, we’ll make dinner and giggle before turning in to prepare for a long, busy week.

We get hungover because we’ve treated our body a little too harsh, and it’s asking for some time to recuperate. Our bodies do the same when we overwork them, put them through too much stress, yet those signs of wear aren’t as immediate as a headache or vomiting. We forget to rest.  We keep going and going until the body signals a much louder siren.

A hangover (or when I am sick) shouldn’t be the only reason I take time to rest, to spend the day watching movies and reading in bed. But, I have to have the courage to put myself first and remind myself that these days are not only my reward but they are the charge I need to go out and be the person I want to be every other day of the month. Some months, it will be harder to get in that Heather Day, but I am committed to this. It’s what my body needs, it’s what I need.

 

Week 14: Keeping the good and the bad

sunsetHalfway through my Peace Corps service, my group held a conference to talk about our first year as volunteers and then discuss goals for the second year. In an exercise, there were statements written in marker and tapped to the walls. These sayings were general attitudes about how we felt about our services thus far, and we were to stand next to the sign we most agreed with. They ranged from “I’ve done all that I can and my projects are successful” to “My projects are failing but because of challenges outside of my control.” I can’t remember the exact phrasing on the poster that I stood next to, but it was something like, “My projects are not where they should be and there is more I think I should be doing.” I was the only one at that sign.

After the session, our deputy of programs and training pulled me aside. He is a kind, gentle man that I had had several conversations with before this point. “Heather,” he said in his soft South African accent, “you need to know that you are a good volunteer. I am afraid that you don’t know that.” I stared crying, of course, partly because I didn’t believe him and partly because this is something I’ve heard my entire life.

You are too hard on yourself. Most people who are close to me would tell you that this is true, and it’s always bothered me a bit because I don’t really have a response. I don’t know how to change the fact that I beat myself up constantly. I’ve read books, been in therapy for years, recited mantras. I’ve just assumed I will always be someone who is not good enough in her own eyes.

In the last few weeks, though, I’ve noticed a slight shift in my thinking. It has less to do with not ostracizing myself when I’ve made a mistake and more to do acknowledging my triumphs. A few examples:

A few days last week I’ve straight up killed it. I’ve been efficient and have produced quality work. There are days when I am off my game and things fall apart, but I don’t see those one or two lack luster projects to define my work as an employee. When I take a honest look, I know that I am good at what I do. That sentiment hasn’t always been there and it  doesn’t come from a place of cockiness or self congratulations, but rather taking myself in at eye level.

Also, in writing. Sometimes I write things that I know deep down to be really, really good. I can feel the writing pop out of me and I know it has potential. For example, years later, I can look back at this post and still think it’s really good and not give a shit what someone else thinks because I know it to be true. There are other times when I know what I wrote is garbage and it will never see life outside of a buried Word document. Like, this morning, when I wrote for an hour and produced 600 words of dribble. I am learning to accept those strides of writing and that because I produce bad writing sometimes doesn’t mean I am a bad writer.

I am not entirely sure where this clarity comes from;  it could be maturity or a fleeting sense of enlightenment. However, I have an inkling that sobriety has helped reroute some of my self doubt.

I often drank to drown out my insecurities and anxiety. In those few hours guided by $7 craft brews,  those voices of not being good enough and who was I really to believe I earned success were quieted, and I could forget for a small amount of time that they even existed. Yet, when I sobered up, those voices raged back, making up for lost time. Consequently, when I shut out the negative voices, I also kicked off the positive ones.

In sobriety, I do hear those “I am not enough voices’ louder and I felt powerless for a bit without having drink to use as a temporary reprieve from them. However, I also hear the confident voices more now, and without booze I am getting better at listening. I have more confidence in my ability to ignore those statements that matter and dig my heels into the ones that do.

Being hard on myself is part of my make up, and no matter how much I grew into my own self there will always be that self doubt. I am OK with that, I accept that. However, I also have a side in me that is confident and lustrous, and I can feel her coming out more and more. Again, that may just be part of maturing, but I think removing the numbing of drink helps too. It doesn’t bother me when the hard voices come, because I know the good ones will too. With both of them present, I am a living a more whole life.

Best part of being sober: I met up with a friend this week and she suggested tea. She knew I wasn’t drinking, and it was just really thoughtful that she picked a place without the temptation of booze for us to catch up.

Worst part of being sober: I had a whiff of beer when I was out on the street, where it’s not common to smell beer but also not unusual. The craving hit hard and fast, then disappeared.

 

Week 13: All the cool things that happen when you quit drinking

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A year ago I read a story about a guy who gave up drinking for two years. Oh, the awesome things you’ll experience when you stop drinking, he said. You’ll lose 75 pounds. You’ll save enough money to buy a condo. You’ll let go of toxic relationships and finally learn to like your own company.

That sounded pretty good, especially since I had decided to start 2016 with a few months of sobriety. I late realized that I knew the guy – I had taken a storytelling class with him a few months earlier – and was a bit surprised to know that he was sober, especially since the story he told was about being a drunk idiot and getting arrested for said drunken debauchery. I ran into him a few weeks later after his Medium post had been shared thousands of times and printed in the Chicago Tribune. The piece, which had taken him 20 minutes to write, he told me, earned him a book deal.

Of course it did.

The guy was a bit smug about the ease of sobriety and having a book in the works that I resented him. Meaning, I was hella jealous.

Nothing really happened in my two months of sobriety, and I wrote a counter piece to this guy and everyone else who says that giving up booze was one of the single best decisions of their lives. (A literary agent didn’t call me after this piece was published, but 2K shares isn’t awful.)

The night the piece was published I was actually breaking my sobriety with a Two Brothers’ Night Cat and several red wine variations. Sobriety hadn’t brought me a smaller waist line, a heftier savings or enlightenment, so why continue?

Since I’ve begun round 2 of sobriety, I get the same questions. “Are you healthier? Do you notice any big changes? Do you feel any different?”

The answer is not really. When I told this to one friend, she replied, “Good, then I am not doing it.”

As you all know, there are several deeper reasons I began this sobriety project, but I also made this decision with those vanity benefits in mind. I’d like to lose 10 pounds. I’d like to save money to pay off my student loans and afford my trip to Europe this spring. I’d like to win back all those hours of drinking and recovering from drinking and cash them in for some creative inspiration. Ninety-one days in and I look and feel nearly the exact same as the nigh before this project began, throwing back pumpkin beers to make the second presidential debate more tolerable. (No amount of pumpkin or any-flavored beer could do that.)

I will say, when I first stopped drinking, I did notice a slight increase in my quality of sleep. I slumbered deeper and longer. That new found relaxation didn’t last and I wake up at least twice a night to use the bathroom. Or because an invader has not only picked the locks to my apartment door but our front security door and has now made his way into my room so he can steal all my things and murder me, and his slight tip toeing has woken me up in a fit of panic and I am screaming at the top of my lungs.*

As a drinker, there are many chunks of nights I don’t remember. How I got home, how many drinks I had, what ludicrous snack I made once I got home. Every morning after a night of drinking, I would wake up and try to remember all the idiotic things I had said the night before and decide if I needed to send out a mass apology text. In sobriety, though, I lamented that not only would I remember everything I said, I would be able to control the truth bombs out of my mouth and not say stupid things in the first place. While I do say less dumb things, I still can’t always remember what I did or said the night before, even under the bright light of sobriety. I often think back, “Wait, did that happen? Or was it part of a dream.” I honestly don’t know the differences sometimes.

Also, the two-year sober guy said that some of his friends stopped hanging out with him once he quit drinking. None of my friends have done that. Maybe I just have better friends who aren’t lame punks that support my individual life choices.

I joked with E the other day that the only thing I gained from not drinking is more emotions. I laughed at my own joke until I realized I’ve always been over emotional, drinking or not. It

Not losing friends is great, and I can sort of deal with my bank account and weight numbers staying the same. However, I’d still thought I would feel some universal shift when I removed alcohol from my daily life. I envisioned my internal and external selves would morph and this entire project would have a definition of purpose, something I could point to and say, “Yes, that’s why I did this.”

That really hasn’t happen, at least not yet. I not even 100 days into my sobriety and it’s going to take time before I can dig up the rawness. Those deeper reasons are why I am committed to this year-long goal and I know it’s going to take longer than two months to unearth the things I needed to in sobriety. There is still time for that magic to occur, and I had hope that these smaller things like better nights sleep and a calmer life would prove I am on the right path. I do believe it will come and someday I’ll understand the true importance of following my gut into sobriety.

Still, I wish I could just lose five damn pounds.

Worst part of being sober this week: I went to a meeting for storytellers and someone had a bottle of wine. I didn’t know most of the people and felt slightly like a fraud in front of this group. I wanted to grab the bottle, down it and pretend like I belong. It’s harder to fake it without booze.

Best part of being sober: This isn’t so much a sober thing as an in-your-30s thing, but O M G is it awesome to go home on a Friday night, put on an adult-sized onsie and watch a movie. I remember once in college I stayed home on a Friday to watch “Gone With the Wind.” I felt like such a loser and thanked the high heavens when a friend called and asked to meet up for a drink. Only lame people stay in on Friday nights, I thought at age 22. At 32, I thank the high heavens that I am now a lame person.

*Note: This is almost always my partner trying to be very quiet not to wake me as he goes to bed. I may be a light sleeper. Or he may be a burglar. Jury is still out.

**Note: Also, I couldn’t find a real appropriate photo for this post, so enjoy this colorful one from last year’s Pride Parade.

A fresh start

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New years don’t erase problems. The divorce isn’t rescinded, the bank account suddenly full, broken promises mended, the sick healthy. All the things that made our hearts heavy on December 31 are still present January 1, and yet there is something giddy in the flipping of the calendar. Even if for a day, we all have hope that this year could bring us to happy.

We are just two days into 2017 and I am bursting with hope looking at the 12 months ahead.

The year started in a cabin in northern Wisconsin with a group of people that I know I can count on. We spent our days hiking through the woods, gawking at the towering pine trees and red woods glazed in day-old snow. At night, we stuffed our bellies while enjoying each other’s company. Alcohol cravings did come, but they were never the focus of my attention (It helped that the majority of our group didn’t drink). Instead, my heart felt so calm and full I nearly cried. It was the perfect end to the holidays and the most ideal start to the new year.

Today E and I ran errands and cleaned our home. We worked for hours undoing the holiday season and removing dust and dirt left in 2016. No drunk feels as good as knowing that my sheets are clean and my refrigerator is full.

Later on I went for a run on the Lake Shore Path, the longest I’d ran in months. Despite being out of shape, my legs were like a dog let loose in a park – they wanted to go much faster than the rest of me could keep up. The run wasn’t without pain, but it brought upon a deserving tiredness, one in which you want to wrap around your shoulders and take a nap.

The last few days have felt like a fresh start. Nothing has changed in my foundation – I still eat sugar and worry about not being a good friend – but I have more faith in those small moments. Mopping the floor, watching the lake crash into the beach, eating a friend’s freshly made scrambled eggs. These are not the resolutions touted in marketing ads and Pinterest boards, but they’ve all calmed my heart. They remind me that my happiness can’t be found in book deals, scripted social media posts, marathons ran at sub-4 pace. Joy, real joy, is found when you start believing that, although is life is not perfect and shame and guilt will always be snickering in the corner, all you have is all you need. I won’t tell you that I am there now, but I feel myself moving closer to that point. I may not reach it this year, but each day presents a new opportunity to move a bit closer.

While I have goals for 2017, my greatest hope is that each day I try. I can try and accomplish a lot, or try and accomplish a little. Trying may come easy some days, and it may be brutal others. It doesn’t matter if I accomplish the goals I set, I want to end 2017 knowing I seized this fresh start and gave it my all.

 

Week 12: My 2016

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Several years ago I came across a blog post about a writer who did an annual report of his life from the year before and used that to make goals for the upcoming year. I found the guy a bit boorish and his approach to travel pretentious, but as the wick of 2016 burned to the end, I kept thinking more and more about an end-of-year report. I found the man’s blog again (still don’t like him) and decided to do a rough version of my own this  year.

To do this, I made several buckets – writing, health, giving/activism, career, relationship, friendships, experiences/travel, spirituality and money. I picked these collections because they are the most significant areas in my life and where many of my goals lie.

First, I looked what went well, and to be honest, I was surprised. For example, my intentions for 2016 were to write and to run, and with a knee injury I didn’t do much running. My original goal was to run the Twin Cities Marathon, a day before my 32nd birthday. As most of you know, that didn’t happen and instead I was plagued with knee issues most of the year. However, when I listed what I did accomplish in running, it was more than I had anticipated. In the health category, I noted that I ran three 5 Ks, which isn’t a marathon but something to be proud of when my running wasn’t consistent. I also bought a bike (a goal of mine since I moved to Chicago two and half years ago), started swimming again and joined a gym.

My writing accomplishments were also greater than I expected. My goal had been to publish three pieces this year, which I did on Elite Daily (one, two and three). I also told a few stories on stage, for three separate shows, and wrote a blog post that was featured on Peace Corps’ international blog. I started attending a writing group and began a new blog. Also, I wrote an entire fiction novel, two drafts even.

The biggest change of the year, which wasn’t planned, was getting a new job. I really didn’t have intentions of leaving my job at Peace Corps – I was on the second year of my five-year contract – but I had been thinking long and hard about a career change (more on this at another time). A former colleague encouraged me to apply to a communications job in the city, which I didn’t get, but then I had an updated resume and started checking job sites daily. One of those jobs wanted me and, in August, I took a position at a national non-profit. It was hard to leave Peace Corps, it still is hard – Peace Corps, as I’ve written, is in my blood, it’s part of how I see myself in the world – but my time there had run its course. I was ready to remove myself from the agency and my new job offers me a greater growth potential. It was the right next step.

Other wonderful things happened this year, too – I traveled to new places in the U.S., joined the Expanding Lives executive board, moved in with my partner and saw Hamilton.

After I took stock of all the good things, I looked at what didn’t go well. Obviously, running, and I didn’t take as many chances with my writing as I wish I would have. The glaring weakness of this year, though, was friendships. It’s not that there were explosive breakups, and I had some really meaningful moments with friends this year, but I often got caught up in the anxiety of “Tuesday doesn’t work, how about Thursday” or “I haven’t seen that person in three months, I must have done something to anger her the last time we talked.” Friendships are necessary to happiness; you don’t need a significant other or strong relationships with blood relatives, they say, but you do need friends. Yet, our friends tend to get whatever time we have left after family, work, errands and whatever other balls we are juggling. Next year I want to make a concerted effort to not let frivolous worry and insecurity seep so far deep into my friendships.

The list of what didn’t go wrong was not as long as the list of things that went well, which was the entire point of this exercise. My starting point is less behind than I think, and I get to embrace 2017 and all of my goals knowing that whatever downfalls I had the year before I am on the right track.

Most late Decembers I take stock of the year by noting what I must improve upon in the next year, but this year I am more hopeful. This quasi-annual report sets the foundation for me to do so (which I will at some point in the next month or so) but it also allows me to spread out all the things I have to be grateful for and pick them up one by one. Then I understand that my starting point is less behind than I think in the day-to-day.

The hardest part of being sober: I spent the week with E’s family and there wasn’t any temptation to drink; I may have even gone a day not thinking about alcohol. The truest test will likely come on the 31st, but I have enough of a support system that I am not to worried.

The best part of being sober: Waking up with a clear mind the next day.   

 

Week 11: Merry & Bright

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Classic Christmas songs are my favorite – not the hymns from midnight mass or 1990s pop tunes, although I like those too – but the ballads from Perry Como, Nat King Cole and Judy Garland. The songs written long ago, but not too long ago. They remind me that Christmas is a special time with magic and jolly, yet each year, no matter the turmoil or glory or static, it arrives on the 25th of December.

Christmas comes when the new little baby sleeps in her crib, the loved one has returned from far away, the table is full and mighty. It also comes after the diagnosis, the burial, the bank account has nearly emptied. They are Christmases we remember and those we can’t, the one’s we hope to recreate each year and the ones we’d like to never mention again. The magic lies in the hope of next Christmas and that whatever troubles our heart this year will have run its course and joy will take over.

I’ve spent Christmases far and way, regretful and optimistic, and yet I anticipate Christmas’ arrival each year with lust that something will be different. Maybe this is the year for the best Christmas, that I’m gifted complete reassurance of who I am and my place in the world.

Yet, something’s been a bit off this holiday season and I couldn’t fully immerse myself in the festive spirit. It could be that I am not at home (only my fourth Christmas away from my family) or that I am still adjusting to a new job or the general sadness that’s been hovering over the world this year.

It also could be the sobriety. As I mentioned before, the biggest test of my sobriety has been the holidays. For me personally, the hard part of the holidays, with the exception of New Year’s Eve, is essentially over. I won’t have great temptations to drink on Christmas Day and the festive celebrations have all been had. Essentially, I survived Christmas without alcohol.

Yet, it doesn’t feel like an accomplishment. I had anticipated feelings of reassurance or enlightenment would come in my first holiday season without alcohol, but I don’t feel any real resolution after several weeks of abating temptation. (In the airport Thursday evening, I walked into a small shop and nearly snatched the beer out of a man sitting at a table because it smelled so good. In my eyes, at that moment, the beer prevailed over tres leches cake and dark fudge.) Rather, I am more fearful that this journey will get harder with greater allurement as the year goes on and my willpower will have been used up avoiding holiday ales and cranberry-infused champaign.

I am proud of making it nearly two months sober and getting through a normally booze-induced season, but I wish I felt more hopeful or like I was hanging on to rope of faith that this really is the best thing for me. I don’t know what I am holding on to right now.

But, then I read these words, and I feel a bit foolish. Not drinking at Christmas definitely requires effort, but I have so much to be grateful for this holiday season. All of my basic necessities are met and I am surrounded by love and grace. So, I’ve been a bit blue this holiday season, but my list of gifts is long and that’s what I need to remember. There, that’s where I can find that Christmas magic that seems to be there year after year.

Merry Christmas, friends. Hope your holiday is a bright and joyful one.

The hardest part of being sober: I learned this week that announcing my sobriety isn’t always necessary or welcomed. Some people don’t want to hear that you’ve decided not to drink, for whatever reason, and you can see thoughts spinning behind their eyes as you try to justify to them, and yourself, why this is a good idea.

The best part of being sober: Going to a holiday party and walking away with a $3.00 tab.

Week 10: What’s left

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Three and half years in West and Southern Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer left its mark on my body. Tan sun spots are tattooed on the top of my cheek bones, shallow lines explode from the corners of my eyes and my nose is more freckled, all thanks to long afternoons under the sub-Saharan sun. My stomach will also never be the same after giardia, dysentery and amoebas. All patience my intestines may have had was eaten away by parasites that somehow made their way into my stomach, and when it is time to go it is time to gooooooooo.

Additionally, I developed stress-induced nausea during my second year in Lesotho, and it got so bad that I was medically evacuated to South Africa for testing. The worst bout of it occurred when I had to leave my village for a week because the students at the school where I worked phsyically attacked the principal.

Since returning back to the U.S. three years ago (nearly to the day), the nausea has popped up from time to time, like when I was making the decision to leave Washington D.C. four months after I had moved there and go to Chicago. The nausea came back pretty strong this spring with some foundational changes at work and I took it as a signal that maybe it was time to leave that job.

When the nausea comes, it can be crippling. I try to tame it with crackers, carbonated drinks or a nap, but sometimes its strength forces me to stop, to examine why I am so stressed that my body is revolting.

Right now I am supposed to be at the monthly meet up of a writing group, but the nausea has kept me home. It started this morning at the gym when I was in the pool, and I assumed I just needed some water. Or coffee. Or food. I went on with my day, but the feeling of wanting to vomit stuck like a piece of tape that I had thought I had gotten rid of. Before I was to leave for the writing group, my mouth began to salivate and my forehead sweat. Nothing came out, but my body went through the motions as if it was trying to dispel some kind of evil.

What stress is inducing this nausea? Well, it could be anything. The holidays, work, money, a busy schedule, the constant struggle of not being enough. But, I have a feeling that it’s not so much the stress that is poisoning my body, rather than the lack of relief from stress.

Alcohol had always been a way for me to release stress, like the air valve of a tire and letting pressure escape enough to make the rubber flexible again. It wasn’t as calming as running or as healthy as a bubble bath, but it was effective. One beer in and I could feel my shoulders release and my breath deepened, and then I would want another drink and another, chasing that feeling of relaxation. A glass of wine or a beer with dinner has always been my solution to stress, and a night out with a hefty bar tab was deemed a perfectly reasonable reaction to a hectic week.

Running was often my other go-to for stress relief, but I began having knee issues in late 2015 while training for the Chicago Marathon, and those knee issues worsened this year and I was forced to take some time off from running. Alcohol filled its place, drinking 3/4 of a bottle of wine by myself (only stopping because of guilt) and picking up an extra tall boy on the way home after having three or four beers with friends.

When I removed alcohol from my life, though, I hadn’t designated a plan for the stress. Sure, I can do yoga or spend time with an adult coloring book and sometimes I write (but also writing is many times the reason for my anxiety), but I don’t have that easy fix anymore. I am slowly getting back into running (now that I know my injury is not a tear or sprain) but I am not to that point where I can log five miles because I am worried that a friend is mad at me. Stress relief is more of practice and I am used to a quick hit.

Today when the anxious thoughts piled up, there was no release and likely hadn’t been for a while, so my body set off the alarm to tell me that I needed to pay attention, now. I decided to stay in to write (the less stressful kind), bake and read a book. This is a big step for me, listening to my own needs and acting in my best interest and not to that greater “I should.”

Sobriety is more complex than just not drinking, it’s about rerouting patterns and finding a new journey in what’s left. I still don’t know what that looks like, but I am learning to trust that I do know how to find it. My body told me to stop today, and I knew enough to listen.

The hardest part of being sober: Ordering tea at Wine Wednesday. Everyone was incredibly sweet and accommodating, but it has never been fun, in any context, to be the odd woman out.

The best part of being sober: Every week, I am going to say the supportive people in my life. I am in awe of how amazing some friends have been as I go through this journey. After my last post, one incredible individual sent me boxes of hot cocoa and cider mixes. I cried when I opened the package. Another added bonus: I got into the 2017 Chicago Marathon! Like I mentioned, my knee is getting better but I am going to spend most of the winter building strength so that I am healthy to start training in June. I feel fairly confident I can get there and I’m eager to train again. Plus, I’ve missed running in Chicago so much it makes my heart ache, and I can’t wait to spend hours on the Lake Shore Trail this summer.