Day 20, Day 21, and Day 22

I read a really interesting article in Forbes. (That makes me sound wicked smart, but I assure you, I don’t regularly do this).

I was always under the impression that it takes 21 days to kick a bad habit or start a good one. When I made this sobriety pact, I thought, just get to day 21 and you’ll be fine.

I imagined my Fairy Godmother was going to fly into my apartment at the stroke of midnight, on the eve of my 21st day sober, and “POOF” away any future desires to drink or smoke (and also bring me a million dollars and a boyfriend).

Well…

According to Forbes, the 21 day theory is bogus and according to my parents, Fairy Godmothers aren’t real.

Luckily, the dudes over at Forbes like to burst unrealistic bubbles and replace them with solid boxes, full of tools you can actually use to be more successful and accomplish what you set out to do. They replaced this ever-so-popular 21 day theory with 3 phases of change. These phases don’t answer to the boundaries of time and will vary based on the person and the goal. The most important thing is to be aware of what phase you are in and what’s to come.

  • The Honeymoon: This term gets thrown around a lot, and for good reason. It’s pretty on point. All new things go through a honeymoon phase; jobs, apartments, relationships. When you’re speaking in terms of a habit formation or reformation, the Honeymoon is the first few days of change. At this point, you are feeling incredibly motivated, maybe you heard an inspiring lecture or spoke to a successful friend, or if you’re like me, it’s January 1st and in the spirit of being a walking cliché, you declare change all over the internet and receive tons of amazing encouragement to get you going. Basically, this is when change feels really good.
  • The Fight Thru: And this is when change feels really bad. The dust has settled, the butterflies in your stomach have turned into moths, no one gives a hoot about your blog. You think “this was a stupid idea”. The struggle begins. The most important thing to do at this point is to recognize that you’ve come to this point. When you’re making big changes and hoping for big results, you have to be acutely aware of what you’re feeling, thinking, and doing on a daily basis. I know, it sounds like a lot of work, and it is. But, as every teenage girl on Facebook once said, “no one said it’d be easy, they just said it’d be worth it”. You also need a crystal ball. When you come to the intersection of “you got this” and “give up”, the only way to know which path to take is to look into your future and be painfully honest with yourself. Ask the big questions like, “how is this choice going to make me feel?” and “what will my life be like in 5 years, 10 years, or even just tomorrow if I do this?” I’ve had more urges to journey down Give Up Rd. than I can count, and I’m only on day 22. Every time I feel my proverbial feet wandering, I remind myself, that one cigarette or one drink now, will lead to many more later. I will inevitably find myself spiraling back into my old ways and, at the very least, in five years, I will be exactly where I was one year ago, and I will be miserable. When I reflect on that future, I feel it in my bones, and it feels awful. I don’t want that. So I sh-sh-shake it off and I sprint a few more miles down You Got This Dr.
  • Second Nature: “And she lived Happily Ever After”… not. According to Forbes, “second nature” just means you’re “in the groove”. Personally, I have no rhythm, so staying in any kind of groove is difficult and I don’t think I’m alone in this, which brings us back to recognition. There are a few things you should recognize, that can send you back to the fight thru stage; discouragement, disruption, and success. Discouragement kind of goes hand-in-hand with my “no expectations” rule. When you’re making a change, be aware that it may not always turn out how you planned. Be at peace with that, release any control of the outcome, and embrace whatever that outcome is. Disruptions can be positive and negative. This is what I touched on when I was talking about my fear of birthday parties. The typical day-to-day routine is starting to feel a lot more second nature, but when you throw a birthday party or a vacation at me, my heart falls into my butt. The only thing I can do is recognize that it’ll be a little scary and do it anyways. Again, embrace it. Success seems a bit funny to throw into this group, but Forbes says it applies, so let’s analyze. The more positive results you get, the easier it can be to tell yourself “that’s not [the change I’ve made], that’s just how [great/lucky/perfect] I am” and before you know it, you’ve successfully talked yourself back into your bad habits. I haven’t experienced this component yet (womp, womp), but I can understand the mindset. I wonder, if tomorrow I found my career skyrocketing, would I attribute any of that to my 22 days of sobriety? Actually, I probably would. Ok, so maybe this seems like a bit of a stretch for me, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who can relate.

Making a change is a lot of eff-ing work! To quote my new friends at Forbes, “…good habits require consistent commitment. Highly successful people have learned to develop good habits.” Although, if the highly successful kids are doing it, it may be worth a shot, don’t you think?

Days 15-19

I’m giving myself a pat on the back today.

I went out twice this weekend, booze-free!

This time last year, both these situations would have called for a minimum one glass of wine before, during, and after, but I refrained this time around, and, for the most part, really didn’t have a desire to drink at all.

Saturday night was a friend’s birthday party. Birthday parties are what I’m dreading most about my year of sobriety. You know how girls use Halloween as an excuse to dress over-the-top sexy? And people use Thanksgiving as an excuse to eat themselves into a coma? Birthdays seem to be the ultimate excuse to drink excessively and make bad life choices you can laugh about the next day, during hangover brunch at The Griddle.

Luckily, the birthday I went to over the weekend was for one of my more responsible friends. It was a group of friends I met through church. I know, it doesn’t sound that challenging. These guys were never the ones I’d stay out with until 4am or do shots with at a dive bar. The challenge wasn’t the environment I was in, the challenge was in how I prepared to be in that environment.

I’m a bit socially awkward, at least in the beginning. I’m shy. Talking to new people makes me want to puke more times than not. A lot of people I’m friends with now admit that they thought I was snobby or bitchy or just totally un-interested when they first met me, but in reality, I was just being a wimp. That is, until the Jameson and ginger kicks in. I’ve relied pretty heavily on the liquid courage to shake off my social anxieties.

Ironically enough, I’m the most anxious when I’m around this group of church friends. I know; the most accepting, loving, supportive people I’ve ever met, are the ones who make me the most nervous. The nerves come from this weird mindset where I’m simultaneously fighting the urge to judge and feel judged. Does that make sense?

Ok, breaking it down.

I know most people think their past has a few bumps. Well, mine is more of a winding cobblestone road that I’ve been walking on in 6 inch stilettos from Payless. It’s been wobbly and painful to say the least. I’ve just always been the type of person who has to learn lessons the hard way. Luckily, this is something I recognized early on in my life.

Being consciously aware of my somewhat, self-destructive behavior has never really prevented me from making the wrong choice, but it has always allowed me to find the silver lining among the wreckage. So, at the end of the day, I don’t feel all that bad about the things I’ve done or the choices I’ve made.

The problem is, even though I don’t feel bad, I’m not sure how it makes other people feel. Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. I worry that my past makes this particular group of friends feel bad or uncomfortable. I’m not really even talking about who I was at sixteen or twenty-five. I’m talking more about my recent past. This group knew me as I was leaving the church and dropping out of the internship program we were all a part of. This group saw me struggle, big time. So yeah, sometimes I wonder if they look at me as a black sheep, and that feeling makes me uncomfortable, and being uncomfortable makes me socially awkward, and being socially awkward makes me drink.

I guess I still ended up teaching myself a lesson on Saturday night. I stood on that same winding, cobblestone path, but I kicked off my shoes. This mini-milestone was bound to be a bit awkward, might as well make it as pain-free as possible. I think I may have learned a hard lesson the easy way for the first time ever.

I learned that I really don’t have to drink to have a good time.

There I go, sounding like a PSA again, but it’s true. I had so much fun seeing my old friends and meeting new ones and celebrating a girl I love dearly and I did it while sipping out of a red solo cup full of pink lemonade.

I got to check “go to a party sober” off my list of baby steps to sobriety and that feels awesome.

I know I mentioned two sober, social outings this weekend. The specifics of the second occasion are more for my diary, not the internet. But, I will say, dinner without drinks was surprisingly enjoyable.

Day 13 & Day 14

Sobriety. Is. Boring.

That’s something they left out of the D.A.R.E. lectures.

Ok, so it’s probably not sobriety that’s boring, but this adjustment phase I’m in is painfully uneventful.

I’ve always been very good at making plans. The problem is, those plans always started with “let’s have a drink at my place” or “let’s meet at [insert trendy bar name here]”. It just seems like the easiest, and most obvious choice because that’s what 20-something’s do in LA.

Now that this 20-something is sober, I need to think of things to do that don’t involve drinking, while also trying to think of friends I have that would actually enjoy doing these things that don’t involve drinking.

Or do I?

…I think I just had an epiphany mid-post.

This is the mindset I’ve been in for the last couple of days and my time off from work has definitely suffered from it. My weekend was incredibly boring. I reached all new levels of hermit-crabby-ness. I spent three hours making homemade spaghetti sauce and had more conversations with Warner than I did with people. Don’t get me wrong, I like cooking, and I love my dog, but this all seems pretty extreme, and well, just plain pathetic.

The only thing my sobriety is changing, is what I order off a menu. It doesn’t have to change where I go or who I go with. My friends are amazing, and they’ve all been completely supportive and loving about all of this. Why the eff would I want to find new friends? And I like going to bars and restaurants, even if I’m not drinking, I just like being out in all of the hustle and bustle LA has to offer.

Sure, sobriety has its challenges, but this is one of the good challenges. This challenges me to meet new people in a social environment, without the usual liquid courage. This challenges me to initiate plans, without whiskey-flavored bribery. This challenges me to be 100% me, even if it feels a little funny at first.

Challenge accepted.

I must say, this blogging thing is really therapeutic… Now, what are we doing this weekend?

Day 10, Day 11, Day 12

A lot of people think the holidays are the “most wonderful time of the year”, but for a young(ish), aspiring actress in Los Angeles, award season is definitely THEE most wonderful time of the year.

I loved watching the Golden Globes last night. I get butterflies in my stomach when I watch these beautiful actresses on the red carpet and I cry with all the winners as they accept their awards.

I can relate to some of their struggles. At some point in their lives, most of those actors were exactly where I am. I always have that in the back of my mind when I watch these shows because if they can do it, I can do it, right?

Which brings me to Part 2 of the reason why I chose sobriety. (I know, I promised this last week. My punctual blogging may need to be 2016’s resolution).

I’ve wanted to be an entertainer for as long as I can remember. In fact, I remember the day I decided that this would be my career. I was in a production of “Free to Be You and Me”. I was sitting on the edge of the stage, looking out into the audience, singing as loud as I could, and my heart started racing. I was the most excited I had ever been and I knew I wanted to feel that as much as possible for the rest of my life. I was six-years-old.

I think about that moment a lot. After a really bad audition or another “no”, I want to travel back in time, to the early 90’s, and smack some sense into mini-me. But, then there are the times when I do really good work or book a role and that intense, excited feeling pops back into my heart and I know, this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

I didn’t have a lot of the latter in 2014. I was more frustrated and pessimistic than ever before. I stopped praying and started begging God to just give me a break. The more my “prayers” went unanswered the angrier I got and I genuinely considered giving up.

Then one night, in the middle of this prayer-begging, I finally got a response.

I’m not one of those Christians who hears from God very often. I have friends who constantly talk about what God has been saying to them or what He’s put on their heart and I’m usually the one listening with envy, while at the same time thinking “maybe you should get your head checked” (thou shall not judge, I know).

So, what did He have to say?

“I can’t trust you yet”.

Yup. You read that right. Ouch.

“Hearing” from God is a weird experience. It’s definitely not what I thought it would be. I really expected to be interrupted by a voice sounding similar to the guy who does the movie previews, saying something like, “Thou need not worryith, my child”. But, instead, I got what kind of sounded like my own voice saying “Nope. Can’t trust you yet”.

One could argue that it was my own voice, knocking some sense into my own head. But, the problem with that theory is, I didn’t hear any of this in my head. I heard it in my heart and I felt it in my toes, and I just knew that this came from something much bigger than me. I took a deep breath in and felt comfort and relief for the first time in months.

I was relieved that God couldn’t trust me… yet.

That “yet” saved me. I started to reflect on what that could mean and it really didn’t take long for me to figure it out.

I don’t make good choices when I drink (who does, really). I’m not proud of the person I become under the influence, and if I feel that way, I can only imagine how that makes God feel. Frankly, my drinking and the choices I made were cringe-worthy to God (and probably a lot of people around me).

The most obvious solution then, quit drinking, which was also the most difficult solution.

This moment of clarity happened early on in 2014. If we went back to our imaginary line graph you can mark “heard from the big man upstairs”, right after my birthday, when the drinking was just starting to escalate. I spent a lot of the year trying to bargain with God, “I’ll just drink a little”, “Only on the weekends”, “I had a bad day, one cigarette is fine”. It took so many more months, and a few failed attempts, before I could finally follow through with His command.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball, so I don’t know if my sobriety will lead me to my own Golden Globe. What I do know is, God is good, and His promises are true. And for Him, nothing is impossible.

Day 9

I’ve always lived my life with expectations. I don’t mean measurable expectations necessarily, they aren’t always high or low. I just expect things to go the way I expect them to go.

This probably stems from being a complete brat growing up and constantly getting what I want due to the fact that my family members were legitimately afraid of me. (I threw epic temper tantrums, shocking, I know). I had an expectation of how a certain situation would play out and I would do whatever it took to ensure my expectations were met.

I remember a certain instance when I was probably around five. My Grandma took me to a department store. We were in the kid’s section and I spotted a pair of Little Mermaid pajamas that I wanted. I pointed them out to Grammy, she examined them and decided that I could not have them because they were made out of that itchy polyester material and she knew I wouldn’t wear them because they’d be uncomfortable. (Side note: I want to find the person who chose to make children’s sleepwear out of that torture material and force feed them those PJs). Well, me being an assertive, five-year-old, jerk, would not take no for an answer. After a few seconds of back and forth debate, I hurled my entire body on the ground and threw the most embarrassing, dramatic, full-body tantrum, until Grammy was so sick of standing over my flailing limbs, she gave in. (If you’re reading this Grammy, I’m still really, really sorry). I walked out of the store with a smile on my face and a false sense of accomplishment.

Last night, I had expectations and those expectations weren’t met, and this resulted in the adult version of a temper tantrum (screaming into a pillow).

Long story short, an old friend reached out and invited me to this thing.

Expectation: I’m going to go to this get-together, meet new people, be a lovely, sober, social butterfly and have a great time.

Reality: I freaked out when I realized I wasn’t going to know many people there and couldn’t pre-game with a drink to ease the nerves of being in an unknown social environment, and I flaked at the last second.

Result: I was really, really disappointed in myself and I screamed into a pillow for 5 minutes.

I only calmed down once I understood the lesson learned from my frenzy.

In this new chapter of my life, I can’t have expectations. I used to roll my eyes when my mother said “expectations lead to disappointment”, but right now, that definitely applies.

I’m doing something challenging and it will only be more difficult if I put pressure on myself to measure up to my expectations.

I’ve never done anything like this before, so I don’t know what to expect, and that is ok.

Everything is going to be ok.

Day 7 and Day 8

I had an “a-ha” moment yesterday. Actually, it was more of an “oh shit” moment…

I’m starting to feel things a lot more.  I feel like a cliché country song admitting to this, but I think I’ve been using alcohol to numb myself.

This epiphany shocked me a little bit. I never remember thinking “I don’t want to feel this, so I’m going to drink”.

I wonder if it was a side effect of how much and how often I was drinking. I didn’t need to think about drinking away my feelings, it just happened that way. Or maybe I’m just in denial about my position on the previously-blogged-about spectrum.

I don’t know when or how the numbing side effects of my drinking started, but I do know I’m beginning to reap what I’ve sewn.

I was getting ready for work yesterday, when out of nowhere I thought “Oh shit. I had a really bad break-up a few months ago”.

You’re probably making the same exact face I made when that thought crossed my mind. My forehead wrinkled and my eyes crossed a bit, as my upper lip scrunched towards my cheekbone, and I thought, “Where did THAT come from?” And then I spent the next 3 minutes holding back tears to prevent crying off some freshly applied mascara.

This break-up happened three months ago. When it happened, everyone around me expressed how shocked they were that I was handling it so “well”. I remember my sister looking at me with this uncertainty, like she wasn’t sure if I was about to explode into a pile of ice cream and Nicholas Sparks’ movies or if her baby sister had finally just grown up into a very mature, emotionally-damaged robot.

It was a passionate, whirlwind romance, ten years in the making and it ended abruptly… via text message, but I seemed fine. I felt fine.

I contributed my lack of tears to my strong, “I am woman hear me roar” attitude and the fact that this guy I thought I loved turned out to be just another moron. “I’ve been in enough bad relationships to know who not to waste my tears on”, or so I thought.

If you were to illustrate my drinking with a line graph, it would start at fairly normal levels in January/February/March of 2014, and then begin a steady increase right around my birthday (April). The summer months would show a more significant escalation, so by the fall, I was really at the height of my habit/addiction/problem/whatever I’m labeling it these days.

That’s when this break-up happened, end of October/early November.

I definitely had a glass of wine the night I got that massive, confusing, final text message. I probably had a few glasses that night, and every night that week and the weeks following, but that was how I had been living for months, so it didn’t feel like I was “drinking my problems away” or trying to numb myself.

Yesterday I realized, it didn’t feel that way because I was already numb.

I anticipate what happened yesterday, will happen a lot more this year. I think Day 8 of my sobriety will include investing in some waterproof mascara.

Day 6

6 days is the longest I went without drinking in 2014.

It was back in July. I remember it well because it was right before my sister moved out of my apartment. In fact, the reason why I drank on day 6 was because it was the day she moved out and I thought we should celebrate.

I wasn’t trying to give up drinking at the time, I was trying to quit smoking, and if you’ve ever been a smoker, you know, the only thing better than a cigarette, is a glass of wine with that cigarette. I thought if I didn’t drink for a while I could kick my smoking habit once and for all.

I’ve struggled with smoking for a long time. It started during my conservatory training when I was 19-years-old. One thing the brochures for acting school don’t tell you, is that EVERYONE smokes at acting school. Seriously. I used to bum Marlboro Lights from my teachers.

I really didn’t think I would get addicted (I know, I sound like a PSA). But, at 27 years old I have tried everything: Chantix, cold turkey, Wellbutrin, hypnotherapy, prayer… I once ate a cigarette because I read online it would make you so sick you’d never want to smoke again. I’m not kidding. I ATE a CIGARETTE.

Hypnotherapy worked for a while. That was probably my most successful attempt at quitting. But, eventually I started craving cigarettes when I was drinking. That’s when I decided that I would only smoke when I was drinking, ironically, that’s also when I started drinking a lot more. As long as I had a glass of wine in my hand, a cigarette was acceptable. So, I always had a glass of wine in my hand, and thus, a new bad habit was formed.

At this point, you have probably noticed, I don’t refer to my drinking habits as an addiction. I don’t identify as an alcoholic. I’ve done a lot of research and thinking and talking about where I am on the addiction spectrum, and I don’t think I got there; to full-on alcoholism. I think I was well on my way, though.

Over the summer, I Googled, “How do I know if I’m an alcoholic”. A few online quizzes popped up and I took about four of them before I realized; I was taking an online quiz to determine if I was an alcoholic. Regardless of what the quiz results were, I was obviously worried about my current lifestyle and the choices I was making. That was my wake-up call, well, part one anyway.

I realized, I may not be an alcoholic today, but I was taking very good care of my bad habit.  Sprinkle in a little family history of addiction, add a dash of “stressful day job”, and it was really only a matter of time before I was in it too deep to find my way out.

Part two of my wake-up call is more spiritual and personal. I briefly mentioned it yesterday. I promise I’ll go into more detail in a post later this week, just let me muster up a little more courage first.