Tag Archives: fear

Am I a lurker in my sober life?

27 Dec

11:34 pm

What a week, eh? Ah, holidays. Ugh. Even with my 280-some days, I had MAJOR pangs, which was quite unexpected! Again, not necessarily pangs to drink, but pangs to avoid what I really didn’t want to feel, or acknowledge, or confront.

So, quickly, let me set the stage. My boyfriend and I went away for a few nights, and all in all, we had a great time. We’d been to where we went before, and so there was a level of familiarity–and nostalgia–to the place. Which played against me this time, as you’ll see. On Christmas Eve, he sprung something on me that I wasn’t comfortable doing–honestly, I’m not sure I would’ve been comfortable doing it drunk, let alone sober. However, while other people do everything sober and don’t think twice; not me, so cue the whirlwind of “should I/shouldn’t I” thoughts!

I was also feeling surprisingly lonely. I mean, lonely for family in the sense of connection, of belonging, of “protocol.” You know, how it’s nice to sit around once in a while with your big, dysfunctional family because, well, it makes you feel like you’re part of something larger than yourself? That there’s SOME sort of order to the Universe? Now, I’ve been “un”-celebrating holidays for a long time, spending many of them alone, or doing random things around the world, literally–it’s not like I’m all that big into Christianity OR family. Why the HELL I found myself wearing shades en route to the airport, having a hard time holding the tears back, I really don’t understand. I think it was the combination of feeling a sense of loss–my old self, my old way of doing things, the old me who could party and be independent–and a sense of finality–how much I’ve gained, how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown.

It was in this state of mind that my boyfriend sprang “the thing” on me. I sort of moped my way through dinner, feeling inadequate in a way because I couldn’t (wouldn’t) do something just because it would have been easier to do with a “glass” of wine to take the edge off. And then, we went to a salsa club. Neither of us danced, and it was the worst feeling in the world–because I’ve been the one to Not Dance out of feeling awkward and like everyone is staring at me SO MANY TIMES. And, it brings up the worst sort of paranoia in me: that I’m unable to enjoy the way others do, that I’m unable–worse, unwilling–to have fun, to let go, to just be. That I can’t do so many things (that make me feel unsafe and self-conscious) without wine.

And, then, I said, Let’s wander around the bar. And my boyfriend was like, And, do what? If you want to be part of something, go and do it, but stop making not being able to drink an excuse for not having the guts to do it. (I’m paraphrasing.)

Hmm.

Am I, in fact, a lurker in my own life? Have I always been? Duh. YES. I mean, when I was drinking, I was alone and desperate for connection, but I was afraid to go out and get it. I’d watch other people, looking for clues as to how to have a life. How to LIVE a life. Ten years ago, I started to walk around the city I lived in at night, looking into lit-up living rooms, craning my neck to gaze deeper, feeling the chill in the air outside even more strongly because the inside looked so warm. I’d DRIVE the fuck around after midnight, passing clubs and bars that I used to frequent, hoping to find…something I had lost, I guess. I never went into those clubs or bars; I was alone, after all, and way too scared. But, I wanted to know that nothing was going on without me. That I hadn’t really lost anything. Or that, I wasn’t missing out on all that much.

Nothing has really changed, it seems, with me getting sober. For years, I drank and drank and drank, and that gave me the courage–or alternately, the excuse to pass on events–to go to things, bars, events, dates, to initiate conversations, to maintain relationships. I had to drink to do it, I was way too scared to do any of it sober. It wasn’t that I was always drunk, but, toward the end everything and everyone in my life involved wine.

It’s been a struggle, and I’ve been trying to be patient with myself. These days, it’s not that I can’t do it, it’s more that I don’t want to. I gave myself a pass for these past 18 months, but more and more, I’m finding myself craving connection. And I see that my “pass” has become an excuse to lurk, to hide out, to avoid contact, to basically give myself the excuse to not do things, socially and professionally.

And, I can’t come up with one thing other than that horrible four-letter word: fear.

I used to pride myself on being the one who was up for anything, on being fearless, on making shit happen. Maybe that was just another story I told myself, because I’ve always hated dancing in front of strangers, for instance, unless I’m drunk. I’ve had an infinite number of conversations with people in my lifetime, at bars, in cities, in colleges and travels, under blankets and in between sheets; but once I got sober, I didn’t want to anymore. I simply didn’t have it in me anymore. I chalked that up to needing to conserve my energy, to finally focusing on me, to being able to at last say, Fuck it, to the shit that I just didn’t want to do–since that “shit” was making me drink.

I keep telling myself that when the time is right, I’ll get back to doing what I used to do–all of which was WAY easier because I was fueled by “liquid courage.” Won’t I? Or, do I need to push myself?

Have I been hiding myself away from life? I think the answer is yes. It’s a very difficult truth to embrace, but…I think it’s time to cut the cord, dive in, jump off.

It sucked balls to have to confront, on Christmas Eve no less, some of the things that have been fucking STARING me in the face before, during, and now, after getting sober. That while I needed to stash myself away for a while and avoid the “real world” of socializing–meeting people, making friends, forming authentic relationships–I need something else now. Something like friends. Girlfriends. Warmth through conversation. A sense of belonging, even community, with others. What irks me the most is that I know this has always been a sore point with me, and I’ve always been afraid of it. It’s why I drank, to avoid having to do what makes me feel uncomfortable–fearful, basically. To put myself out there, for me, is to confront and embrace human interaction.

I’m glad I didn’t drink on Christmas Eve; even now, I see that it would’ve made things easier, and probably more fun. However, in exchange, I got to confront myself and get a little bit closer to my truth, to the real story, as it were.

On that note, I’ve got a cold, so it’s off to bed (at least it’s a “legitimate” excuse to stay home!).

Don’t give up before your motivation returns

5 Nov

2:46 pm

So, in getting sober, I’ve realized that there are things about myself that I know. Things that simply make me “me,” that are neither things that I have to accept nor things that I have to change. They are things that just ARE, and these things are OK.

Like, I’ve always been an overachiever. Some of this behavior was maladaptive, but to a certain degree, I was just born this way. I THRIVE off stress, off getting things done. A LOT of people do, I’m not saying I’m special. In fact, I’ve been wondering about this ever since I got sober. Why have I been struggling so much this past year? Well, I’ve been lacking in motivation because I don’t have wine anymore, that’s true, but I’ve also been going against my grain. Why do I need to go, go, go? Why do I like big cities, with all their ambitious people and innovative ideas and commotion and conflict? I don’t know! I just DO. That’s me.

The past few days have been awesome–large to-do lists, lots of information and sources to research, too much to do, all of it competing for my time. I got off on working in environments like this–for years I worked in the startup industry, and when I went back to corporate America, I can look back now and say that’s when I became depressed. When I went back to graduate school and was once again stretched to my limit, I was on top of the world again! Too bad I didn’t know how to manage my stress and my expectations–my “workaholism,” I suppose I could call it.

It’s always been a fine line for me, but in re-reading my journal from this year last night, I can say this much: I was my most enthusiastic after returning from a weekend visit back to NYC; and, I have never been more vexed, in general, than this past year struggling with too little to do and no motivation to do it.

No motivation was a daily thing in my journal, from about March until, well, now. It’s seriously been a theme in my getting sober. It was a constant struggle, and I blogged about it quite a bit. Now? I feel like there’s been some movement, something’s changed. My brain is healing, for real. Chemicals and circuits are getting back in shape. And, I can honestly say that it’s been like a missile landing in my lap, this return of my motivation levels. What a relief.

My focus, my desire to work, and my ability to manage my time–it’s all back, so it seems. I can “parse” information even better than I remember I could. For example, I seem to have learned how to say “Fuck it” to my perfectionist tendency to get lost in the details when reporting, and instead, focus on the bigger picture, the gist of it. What I need to know is who to contact; what I don’t need to know is their field of expertise (that’s why I’m interviewing them), OR–and this is key–whether or not they’re going to think I’m stupid or ill-prepared. That’s none of my business, what they think of me. (And, they simply don’t think of me, is the point. When I was drinking, I was always so concerned with what others were supposedly thinking about me. Ugh.)

It really does seem that it’s happened only within the past several weeks, maybe a month or two at most–along with motivation, I find myself focusing less on the “what if’s” and trying to perfect the outcome, and more on the “why not?” and “just do it.”

I almost gave up. I was so frustrated that I was going to be “brain-dead” forever. It’s been almost 17 months since I started getting sober, so, seeing my focus and motivation needing that long to come back is DEFINITELY a deterrent to me starting to drink again (even in moderation, whatever that means).

These past few weeks, I feel new. Renewed. A version 3.0 of myself. (I was going to say 2.0, but I think at 39, I’ve already had at least one major upgrade, right?)

The point of this post is, don’t give up! It will come. As Carol said on “Walking Dead” on Sunday’s episode (because you never know where you’re going to find sober inspiration!):

How do you not feel afraid? You just fight it and fight it and fight it and then one day, you’re not afraid anymore. We all change.

Everything scares me…a little bit

10 Jul

12:57 pm

Well, we all know that I spend a good part of my day inside my head. Does that mean I, myself, am oblivious to this? No! Does that mean that I don’t believe it serves my recovery? Hell’s no! Which is why, I beg of you, to bear with me on this post; I promise, there IS a point.

Everything scares me…a little bit.

Just what I said. I have a friend coming to town this weekend, and instead of being excited (which I am), I’m nervous. She and I have never really hung out, sans booze, in any kind of “domestic” capacity. We never went over to each other’s apartments, we went to the bar! In fact, our entire friendship was based on nights out, mutual commiserating. It scares me a little bit to socialize, in general, but it also scares me to anticipate what I’m dreading might be a lot of awkward moments, pregnant pauses, and maybe even some insistence on “what the fuck happened, your life is WAY different now, WAY better!” Maybe I’m scared of holding my own in the face of my successful recovery–I’m so used to being down, I guess, that it’ll be weird to “show off” my new life. (Maybe success makes me feel uncomfortable?)

I’ve got some decisions to make soon, one of which involves biting the bullet and likely getting back into the full-time workforce, maybe going to school part-time on the side. Which will involve a LOT of people, and places, and things I’ve been avoiding as triggers since I got sober last summer.

Deep breath. I’m sure I’ll rally, and take this as it comes. One of the things that getting sober has allowed me to see about myself is that, I want to drink when I’m confronted with something that scares me. And, quite frankly, everything scares me…a little bit.

I don’t know if it’s FEAR per se; it’s more like doubt (uncertainty): Can I do this sober? Will the stress be too much?

I have to re-learn how to learn new things, I think.

Sobriety is not just about avoiding the “people, places, and things” that made you want to drink; it’s about crafting a new life, and one that includes new people, places, and things–that don’t make you want to drink. And what, pray tell, ARE these things that don’t make me want to drink? Discovering what those are is, in a nutshell, LIFE.

I mean, I used to be (am?) a science reporter, and I think aspects of that career drove me to drink. Yet, I am used to the sense of accomplishment I got from this career, and I am used to knowing how to apply this to my framework of the world. I know, though, that if I am truly committed to a “new” way of life, I have to confront the possibility that this career might be more harmful, painful, and addictive than anything else (it involves a lot of competition, a lot of ego, a lot of outside validation).

On the other hand, do I have it in me to switch careers? Do I really want to? How accurate are my projections of having the money, the time, and the focus, at 39 years old, to earn another degree? I don’t know myself that well right now, is what I’m saying. I know how “old me” would have tripped through these decisions, what framework of the universe I was working with. Now, I’m not sure what I hold most dear, what my universal laws of personal physics are! It’s like, I am learning not just new ways of coping, but new ways of learning how to cope.

Journalism is exhausting, but it’s the ultimate high. Can–and should–I relinquish this for something “less” rewarding? I could, for instance, teach, or do grant writing, or write fiction (yes!). A part of my mind–that part that is the source of some of my avoidance/addictive behavior-cries out, Nooooo, DDG! You can only do this one thing, because this one thing is what you’ve always done!

Ugh. “Alcoholism” is SUCH a mental game; I’m beginning to realize it has nothing to do with wine and everything to do with long-held “life philosophies.” Trying something new is often what caused me to drink–not because I don’t like it or I’m afraid of it, but because I believe that I’m wasting time NOT doing what I “should” be doing, what became “too hard,” what I KNOW I can win at, if “just keep trying.” Life philosophies like this are hard to even articulate let alone begin the process of overhauling.

A simpler–and more positive–way to approach this is: My work might not be healthy for me; a relationship might not be healthy for me–do I have the courage to try (to learn) something new, something different?

I had a friend whose literal life refrain was, It’s a process. And, if I can keep that in mind over the next few weeks and months, I’ll consider myself “successful.”

On a final note, you know what’s crazy? I’ve been so busy thinking about other stuff that I haven’t even checked my day count in at least a week! September 9th will be 25 weeks, so that makes today…114 days! Woot! Rock on, me, and fuck you, wolfie!

90 days sober!

9 Jan

11:59 pm

Wow. It’s HERE. It’s really here. As of today, January 9th, 2013, I am 90 days sober. I made it!

Actually, this is my third try since last summer. I quit drinkin’ the day after my birthday back in June (I had had ENOUGH after yet another drunken night of being alternately up and down, yelling at people, and passing out in the middle of important things, like, um, making out with my boyfriend), went for 60 days, drank twice during the next 2 weeks, went for 5 weeks, then drank, oh, several times over the next 3 weeks before I finally–after a horrendously hungover flight from [big city near my home town] to [beautiful island where I now live]–gave up. That was 90 days ago.

Over the course of these 90 days, things have definitely changed. Majorly, in some respects, subtly in many, many others.

If I think back to June, things have changed immensely. I made some huge, and important, life choices–giving up my place (and all that entails) in [cold west coast city] and relocating most of my belongings back to my storage unit in [cold east coast city] was one. The “and all that entails” was confronting (or, in my case, avoiding confronting with any kind of maturity or grace) some of the emotional baggage from my first time in [cold west coast city] (I lived there for 6 years prior to moving to [cold east coast city] in 2005; I moved back to [cold west coast city] in 2010 for a job), which I’ve detailed in past posts.

What I’m saying is, it wasn’t easy starting. It wasn’t easy continuing to not drink through the fear, the worry, the “wolf” voice in my head yelling at me near-constantly that wine would make it better, that life was literally impossible to do without it. It wasn’t easy getting here.

Moving to the [beautiful island where I now live] wasn’t easy. Deciding to dive in and start freelancing wasn’t easy. Going through withdrawal (for I’d say, 6 weeks of a low-grade “flu”), starting this blog and opening up about my drinking problem–that sure wasn’t easy. Going to my first AA meetings here, on said island, was definitely not easy; reading the Big Book and coming to terms with my own opinion and beliefs about AA and “The Program” wasn’t/isn’t easy. Dealing with constant “God DAMN it, wine would make this SO MUCH BETTER/EASIER” pangs was/is probably the worst thing I’ve ever had to do; thankfully, thinking through these thoughts, rationalizing myself out of drinking over them, and practicing this over and over–in addition to doing what I would say is a “personalized” version of the 12 steps–has allowed me to at least tuck the pangs in for a nap.

Those are some of the big ways my life is different. It’s the small ways that are SO abundant, and so rewarding. While today is my 90-day anniversary, it was just like many of the past 90 days: I woke up relatively early, with no hangover and no regrets; I made coffee and walked the dogs, soaking up the wind, the sun, the water, the sky; I went jogging; I went to an AA meeting; I made cupcakes to celebrate my soberversary; I finished an editing project; I commented on some blogs; I wrote a blog post; I kissed my boyfriend. I mean, my days seem simple, but yet…they’re brimming with possibility! Flourishing, actually, in spite of any and every habitual notion I have of containing them.

And, each one of those “simple” acts and actions reveals a major step forward, personally, for me; and most of them, I see now, involve conquering a grander fear. None of this conquering of fears (like, doing it and doing it and doing it until the fear is less than my faith) would have been possible if I were still drinking. It’s that simple.

Fear? Well, the fear of life without wine, first and most important of all. I mean, I was afraid of doing a LOT of things sober. Like, eating dinner, going out, having sex–you get the picture. I worried about the “weird and awkward” moments that were SURE to come up. I didn’t believe that I could do them anymore without wine, or the reward of wine more precisely (I think I ONLY made it through journalism school and my job as a science reporter with the reward of loads of wine at the end of my days)… I guess I just had faith because I saw–thank God(dess)–that I truly had no other option.

Now? Well, I’ve done it. Felt the fear and did it (well, many of them) anyway. Had to say, Wow, THAT was weird and awkward, and then shrug my shoulders and move on. And, what a HUGE RELIEF, knowing that I CAN do these things without being buzzed, AND that I’m actually starting to truly want to do them sober.

I’m HERE, which means I actually made the decisions that led me to give up my place in [cold west coast city] and move down, which could only have been preceded by me actually confronting my sense of loss, my fear of change, and my apprehension of Things Working Out, both personally and professionally. I was not only afraid of geographic change, I was sort of TERRIFIED of being in a relationship, I see now. Of getting to know someone; of someone getting to know me. I used wine to hide from that truth–for years, actually–and the more I avoided it, the worse I felt and the more I wanted to (and did) drink! So, being here, with this wind, and sun, and water, and sky; with these dogs; with this person–it’s all because I began confronting (and continue; it ain’t over yet!) my fear(s) instead of drinking.

Anyway, 90 days. Like I wrote earlier today, I made a deal with myself that I’d go for 90 days and then re-assess. Well, all I can say is, I feel great, I’m regaining my powers of concentration and affect and memory (sort of), I’m LOVING the consistency of never being hung over, and well…yeah, the list goes on and on as to how my day-to-day life has improved by quitting drinking.

Was today any different than any other sober day of late? Not really. I thought about drinking a few times, as usual, but the thoughts are now accompanied by a quick ushering out. I can’t, is all I know. I could, but I’d drink four glasses, not one–I’d WANT four, this I know. Is an hour of “fun” worth 48 hours of time wasted, spent in agony? NOT. So, the loop goes back to the beginning with me not being able to drink… For now.

Well, there ya have it. What’s next? 6 months? Bring it on! 🙂

Do one new thing every day…

3 Jan

1:44 am

…is my New Year’s mantra! I’ve already broken a few resolutions, like, eat less cake and drink less Diet Coke, BUT… Resolutions are things to work on, not attain. When it comes to goals like these, it’s not all or nothing, it’s not black or white, and it’s not one-size-fits-all. Just like getting sober! (Not to mention, what does the Gregorian calendar have to do with my soda consumption? I’m sure the Pope wouldn’t really care if I didn’t eat less cake…)

I like the idea of having a year’s theme. In fact, I was reminded by Mished-Up’s awesome post just how productive declaring a “word of the year” can be! I did that for a few years back in my early 20s. One year it was something like Growth. Another year it was Change. A third was, This is the year of Creativity.

Haha, I KNOW. But the words resonated with specific things in my life at the time, and it seemed to work. If I had a word for this year, or a theme, it would be… ‘ME.’ Or, ‘BACK UP, BITCHES, AND MAKE SOME ROOM!’

ME, to me, translates to kicking ass. Starting. Getting to work. Making a bucket list and getting ON IT. Letting go of the past year and reaping some of the rewards of getting sober. So, I’ve decided that I’d like to try something new–something that’s probably been on my to-do list for years–every day. It doesn’t have to be exactly new, or even grandiose. It could be as simple as trying a new food, or trying to make a new kind of food. Ordering some crocheting tools online and starting my “plastic bag” project. Hiking a new trail. Visiting a new island. Pitching a story. Taking an online fiction class. Learning how to give a better massage. I mean, the list is ENDLESS!

I have the tendency to overthink things. I know, I know, it’s hard for some of you reading this blog to believe, but it’s true. 😉 Overthink and overplan. I’m trying to try something new this year, and to a certain extent, it’s out of necessity: I no longer have the energy to be a perfectionist, especially in the face of the work it takes to maintain my sobriety. The other day, after reading something (probably someone’s blog), I realized that most, if not all, of my recent choices and lack thereof have been based on my fear(s). Fear of doing stuff, fear of starting stuff. I’m a fearful perfectionist, and these two character traits have definitely prevented me from moving forward in my career, for example. They’ve also tied me to the wine bottle, as it’s easy to avoid confronting your fears–and your fear of your perfectionism getting the better of you in the creative process–when you CAN’T do anything because you’re either drunk or hung over. You can’t fail if you don’t try, right?

Anyway, it’s been a good new year so far. New Year’s Eve was fine, actually. Sure, I felt a few pangs, especially at midnight (though, the whiff of champagne I got from someone else’s glass made me feel almost sick–ah, the power of association), but I got over it quickly by remembering just how much I have. I guess, the whole “I do not want what I haven’t got” idea is hitting home these days because I really don’t want what other people “have” anymore. (The question is, what DO I want? Another day, another post.)

I felt good where I was at, no desire to be out and about, getting drunk. I was in bed by 2 (am, that is), and woke up to a bright, sunny day. And, what a great way to start off the new year–no hangover, no drama, nothing to hate myself for having done or say I’m sorry about for having said, no tracks to cover or mishaps to fix. My frustration(s) the other night have passed, and I’m “back on it,” as they say. I guess some days will be harder than others, but it was good to pinpoint my triggers (thoughts and then, feelings, that drive me into a tailspin) by actually observing them and not drinking them away.

And, one new thing a day? Well, my boyfriend and I hopped the 2 pm ferry over to [beautiful island] yesterday and hiked to a beach. We’ve been to that beach before so that wasn’t “new,” but we hiked around a resort and over a few trails that I had never been on, so that was! Today, I signed up for my first road race in like, years and years–8 Tuff Miles. It’s an 8-mile course up and over the hills of [beautiful island], so…it’ll give me a very good reason to stay sober past my 90-day goal. (Not to mention, my sciatic and leg pain have subsided to like, a 2 out of 10, so that’s a HUGE relief. I’ve been swimming to strengthen and now running to build muscle without overdoing it… The key for me is skipping yoga; basic stretches are OK, but anything else is counterproductive.)

Yes, the thought of drinking at 90 days has crossed my mind, but, WHY? I mean, what purpose would it serve? I like where I’m at now; I feel like I’m finally getting out from under some of my thought triggers. I want to work more, do more, and run at least every other day. HOW WOULD BEING HUNG OVER HELP ME? Not to mention, I have no “need” to drink: there is nothing that I want to run from, and I know that I have to face my issues and fears and goals and relationships, including the one with myself, sober if I’m going to move forward. Drinking just sets me back. How simple, but profound.

2013 and, well, life is the same–I’m still sober! Happy new year, indeed!

Wake up!

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