Carolyn took her last drink on February 22, 2019. This is her story of living alcohol-free (AF).
Finding Your Better You – Odette’s weekly message.
Dehumanizing Others. After listening to Brene Brown, Odette loved Brene’s challenge of not engaging in dehumanizing others. We can’t change the world if we continue dehumanizing others. Odette was also reading Pema Chodron’s new book and concluded that polarization is most problematic when we dehumanize people. Habitually dehumanizing others about politics or behavior or clothing isn’t good. Minor differences in habits and preferences keep us fundamentally separate from others.
The division exists everywhere, even in recovery. Odette has observed others judging other’s approaches to recovery. We judge people for NA beer or not drinking NA beer, AA or no AA. We continue to create division instead of closing the gaps. Pema Chodron has a practice called “just like me.” Just like me, this person doesn’t want to be uncomfortable. Just like me, this person loses it sometimes. Just like me, this person wants friends and intimacy.
Focus on the similarities, not the differences. You can have boundaries without dehumanizing others.
[7:35] Odette introduces Carolyn
Carolyn took her last drink on February 22, 2019. She lives in Wisconsin and is 34 years old.
She lives in Wisconsin, is single, no kids, and has fun with her German shepherd pup. Carolyn loves drawing, painting, murals, golf, snowboarding, camping, hiking, etc. She works as a graphic artist. Living in the polar vortex of Wisconsin can be challenging, but it makes her appreciate the seasons more.
[11:01] Tell me about your history with drinking
Carolyn started drinking when she was 14 years old (2000). She would drink on the weekends and look forward to drinking. It was a big part of her identity and made her feel cool and accepted.
Carolyn’s drinking ramped up when she went to college. She worked in a restaurant and played rugby and had lots of opportunities to drink. Drinking continued to be a significant part of her identity.
She met her significant other in 2008, and they were drinking buddies, a party couple. She knew something was off but wasn’t sure what it was.
[13:30] Did you start questioning if alcohol was a problem at that time?
Carolyn didn’t see alcohol as a problem initially, but she was aware that several areas of her life were not jiving. Looking back, she can see many events and relationships influenced by alcohol, but she didn’t see it at the moment.
[14:49] Were you rationalizing your drinking as something sophisticated?
At her college graduation, she was surrounded by friends and family. She was drunk, and her boyfriend proposed. She said yes, even though she knew something was off. She has a lot of internal conflicts. She leveraged alcohol to help her numb her feelings. The marriage ended because she couldn’t move the relationship forward.
After her divorce, she was drinking after work every night. She found it wasn’t fun anymore. She started to develop anxiety at 22. Her drinking was no longer fun, party drinking – it was maintenance drinking. Had she not had the lull in 2014, she would not have had the tipping point
[18:32] Did you talk to a friend or a therapist about your struggles?
Carolyn knew her drinking wasn’t healthy, but she was still in denial. She brainwashed herself into believing she was a fun party-girl. She didn’t see herself as an alcoholic. She began to realize she had a problem after her divorce.
[20:21] Walk me through what happened from 2014 to February 2019.
Carolyn said her drinking progressed. Her anxiety was crippling, and she would drink when she got home. After a visit with his sister, her brother-in-law mentioned he hadn’t had a drink for two weeks. She thought that was crazy. She knew she hadn’t gone two weeks without drinking ever. She stumbled upon the “are you an alcoholic” quiz.
She had a few three-week breaks over the years, and she could feel the fog lift; her anxiety would lessen. She returned to drinking because she couldn’t handle her social life without alcohol.
In 2018, she had to be on medication for a month. She was advised not to drink while on the drug but drank anyway. It was a terrifying realization for her. She knew at then she had to take her drinking seriously.
[25:19] Sometimes, our “best” looks different. It sounds like you had a real mental shift.
Carolyn said it wasn’t until she got scared that she decided to take it seriously. She is now thankful for the hardships that led to her tipping point.
She listened to the Recovery Elevator podcast and heard about Annie Grace’s book, This Naked Mind. She quit drinking the next day. She reads a lot of self-help and memoirs and credits Annie’s book with changing her life.
[28:36] How were your first few weeks alcohol-free?
Carolyn said she was anxious and sweaty during week one. She didn’t sleep well for three weeks and was emotionally sensitive. She would burst into tears at any given moment. She listened to podcasts, checked her sobriety tracker, and didn’t have many cravings. She did chain smoke. By week four, she turned a corner and felt things became more manageable. She was sleeping better, not obsessed with how many days she had. She was still emotional, but her energy was through the roof, and things started coming together.
[32:05] Carolyn asks Odette about her social circle.
Odette joined Café RE. She experienced lots of change, and she was grieving her former self.
Carolyn’s sister quit drinking three years ago. Her oldest sister has been her confidante and best friend through learning to be alcohol-free. Her sister’s sobriety became a motivator. She and her twin sister were drinking buddies. She believes her twin sister is coming to terms with drinking as well. She is learning to be transparent with her sister about her addiction.
[38:05] Tell me about your maintenance routine?
Carolyn said that fitness and nutrition have always been important to her. Now her fitness and nutrition are more therapeutic because she has no alcohol. She is nurturing her body; she feels better, keeps a gratitude journal, podcasts and talks to her older sister, and quit lit help.
[39:54] What do you do when you get a trigger, or a curveball comes your way?
Carolyn said exercise, getting outside, art projects like painting or drawing are freeing. She also dances and sings to shake it off. One podcast, Rachel Heart, focused on how your brain functions in phases of a craving (Think, Feel, Act) has been an excellent tool to overcome cravings. She quit smoking after six months AF, and her cravings were heightened at that time.
[45:32] Rapid Fire Round
Once you reach the 3–4-week milestone, things will get a lot easier.
Carolyn had a tipping point and realized she could have an awesome life without alcohol. She no longer felt deprived.
Carolyn said lots of doors have opened for her. She started a screen-printing apprenticeship. She is shopping for a home. Her self-confidence is much better.
You may have to say Adios to booze if …
If you continue drinking while you are on antibiotics.
Odette’s weekly challenge:
Try the “just like me” practice this week with someone. When you feel judgment appear, pause, and try and lessen the gap between you. Remember, you are not alone, and together is always better. Let’s be kinder to each other and ourselves.
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