Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Constant Battle

Think about your favorite activity...think about a holiday activity...think about a social activity...think about a weekend activity...think about a relaxing activity...think about..well think about anything...does it involve drinking? I am not talking about getting hammered...but does it involve a drink? A beachy frozen drink, a warm winter drink, a fall pumpkin flavored drink, a chilled beer? I am going to guess that it does. Now, take the drink out of the equation...does that change the situation? Does it seem weird? This is what I am currently struggling with. Our society does not cater at all to non-drinkers. Actually the only non-drinkers that anyone ever considers are children. And it's not just college kids or post-graduates that I am talking about...its everyone...coworkers, family, restaurants, people who are married, people with kids, people who are happy, people who are sad...everyone. Therefore, this decision of mine will never get easier. Everyday is a constant struggle...everyday I have to remind myself why I made this decision and why I am sticking with it. Anytime I hear about a drink that I used to actually enjoy (frozen drinks, mimosas, pumpkin beers, etc), I remember how much I enjoyed the taste and I start to doubt what I am doing. I wonder, well it has been 9 months, that's good enough right? I am happy now, got a good thing going, right? Maybe I am all better? This lasts for maybe 15 seconds, and then I snap out of it. I think, what would I gain from doing this? Well..I'd be "normal" again...I'd enjoy the taste of whatever drink it is...mostly, I'd be normal. I remember that with these delicious drinks comes being drunk...something that I have never been good at and have struggled with and has negatively affected my life for years, and most importantly...something that I am happier without.
So then I get my head back on straight and I stay my course. But I am currently just frustrated with the lack of options for people that don't drink....water, soda, iced tea, coffee....that's it. And I am sure that me bitching about not having enough drink options at all social events seems absurd...but think about it, when you are trained to look forward to turning 21 so that you can order all of the fancy drinks, and when you walk into a bar or restaurant and there are pages and pages of alcoholic drinks...and then you are left out, it is no fun. Unfortunately, I have entered myself into a battle against society. This is no longer a battle within myself...I have accepted my decision and am happy with it...this is me versus the world. This is me versus basically everything in our society...and all societal norms...this is me versus the concept of being a grown up.

Fortunately, I think that this doubt and frustration is normal. If we didn't doubt decisions about our life and have to reevaluate and remind ourselves why we do what we do, then something would be wrong. Being forced to deal with these things will help me to continue to stick with my decision and will, in the end, help me to realize the benefits of my decision. I don't think you realize how prevalent something is until you stop doing it. I am actually surprised how much of an outsider I feel like now that I have quit drinking. I don't know a single other person like me. And in some ways I feel like I am a rare form of sober person because I don't mind drinking around me, I don't avoid drinking events, I still support other people drinking, and I think I am quite laid back about it all. I think before I thought it was myself that brought drinking into every activity I did (which is true), but I brought drinking into everything in mass quantities...the fact is, that drinking actually is involved in everything...not to a serious degree but on some level. I wonder why. Coming from being sober and no longer feeling out of control and no longer regretting my actions...why is a mind altering drug incorporated in everything? Why is everyone always trying to escape reality and why does everything have to seem more fun if you are drunk?

And so it continues...9.5 months later and I am still realizing things about myself and the world. That's a good thing though...I recommend you never stop questioning yourself and growing and learning...because knowing that tomorrow you will be stronger and smarter than you were today is a wonderful feeling.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Who I Am, Not What I Was.

All The Above
Really what do you see
When you looking at me?
See me come up from nothing,
To me living my dreams
I done been to the bottom,
I done suffered a lot,
I deserve to be rich,
Headed straight to the top
Look how I ride for the block,
Look how I rep for the hood,
I get nothing but love now
When I come through the hood
Getting this fortune and fame
Money make all of us change
The new benz is all white,
Call it John McCain
How the hell could you stop me?
Why in the world would you try?
I go hard forever,
That's just how I'm designed,
That's just how I was built
See the look in my eyes?
You take all of this from me,
And I'm still gon' survive
You get truth from me,
But these rappers gon' lie
I'm a part of these streets
Till the day that I die
I wave hi to the haters,
Mad that I finally done made it
Take a look and you can tell
That I'm destined for greatness

Tell me what do you see
When you looking at me
On a mission to be
What I'm destined to be
I done been through the pain and the sorrow
The struggle is nothing but love (nothing but love)
I'm a soldier, a rider, a ghetto survivor
And all the above

Well that is just a great song that I heard this morning on my way to work and I felt like I resonated with it more so now than before. Granted I didn't grow up in the ghetto or experience the hardships that Maino did, BUT, I have had struggles, I have been to the bottom and suffered a lot, I believe I deserve to be rich and I know I am headed straight to the top :)

This blog is in response to the blog I wrote earlier about the domestic violence and my view on the phrasing and denial of the severity of what I experienced. I realized that I have conveyed the same emotions when discussing my drinking (or thinking about it). Meaning I tend to make things seem casual because I am worried about what other people think...if I give a neutral response than depending on my audience, my reaction can conform to their beliefs. For example, if I was with someone that thought I was a terrible drunk, then my action of quitting would make sense and they would agree I had a serious program...if I was with someone that didn't think my drinking was an issue, then my casual attitude would work with them and they would view my decision as a personal choice and not really stemming from deep seeded issues. Then I realized that there is always going to be someone who has had it worse than you...there will always someone that will make your experience seems less traumatizing, but that doesn't make them any less significant to you. Just because I wasn't beaten and bruised doesn't mean that I wasn't hurt in every sense of the word, and allowing another persons experiences to define your own is just stupid. There are always varying levels of hardship, but they are all hardships. I debated all of these definitions in my head, and decided on how to "term" myself and how to explain my decisions and what I experienced...I decided, who cares? Who cares about what I WAS? All that matters now is what I AM.

I am first a foremost a survivor. I survived college, graduate school, car accidents, robbery, emotional abuse, physical abuse, alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, fights with friends, fights with family, and LIFE. Everyone is a survivor and that, in itself, is an accomplishment. I am happy with my life. I am successful in that I can sustain living on my own and have found a job that I find rewarding and challenging. I am healthy. I am funny. I am witty. And I will never let anyone tell me otherwise. An alcoholic or victim of domestic abuse I am not, maybe I was..maybe I wasn't...but I AM a survivor of both.

So I highly doubt that anyone else was debating on how to define ME, except my darling self. But if you ever care to define where I come from or why I do what I is because I went through some shit and I survived it...and because of the changes I made I was able to survive. It is kind of the greatest feeling in the world :)


Monday, September 13, 2010

9 month anniversary with myself

Happy Anniversary to me :) And I would say it's an anniversary of me and myself, because nine months ago today I reunited with the real Erica, and her and I have had quite the wonderful relationship ever since. So I said on my 8 month blog that I would use the anniversary as a time to reflect (as opposed to treating myself to something since I am not exactly rolling in the dough). So here we go...

It has been nine months since I decided to quit drinking. It has been hard, rewarding, difficult, cost me friends, caused tears and embarrassment, but all in all has made me a stronger person and I am still 110% committed to my decision. I still think that a lot of people think it is a phase and maybe I give that impression as to not be even more of an outcast then I already am...but to be honest, nothing is certain. For right now, for where I am in my life and what my goals are and how I feel about myself, my decision is perfect and it makes me very happy. And I honestly do not expect anyone to understand where this decision has come from or why I am so serious about it. Maybe my thought process is the same as with the abuse in that I don't think people will understand because my problems with alcohol were not ones of a severe alcoholic....but let me tell you, even if I wasn't waking up every morning with the desire to drink or hiding alcohol around the house, or being controlled my the substance all of the inability to handle myself and drink responsibly is severe enough. Maybe hitting absolute rock bottom isn't the only justification for rash change. Well, nevertheless, I am still very happy with my decision and am continuing to learn things about myself each day, continuing to grow more confident, and continuing to find new interests and activities that don't revolve around drinking.

And I think one of the most important things I've learned (and acted on) is surrounding myself with people that don't care and that appreciate me regardless. You will always be your own worst enemy and your biggest critic, so I will probably think worse about how people view my non-drinking than how people actually do view it, BUT having friends that further those ideas makes things 500 times worse. And to make it even better, the relationships I have formed are not just "drinking buddies", they are true friends that I can go to for anything and that will enjoy sitting with me watching TV as much as they enjoy going to happy hour. And that an amazing feeling.

Fortunately I think in the past nine months, I have disproved all of the bad outcomes I predicted from not drinking...I found activities, I found a guy that likes me for me, I found friends, I don't feel left out, and I am happy.

Cheers :)


Peer pressure working in more ways than one?

So I have yet another view on the non-drinking and "having one drink to be normal" concept. Here is my thought...why do you drink? Maybe you drink because you enjoy the taste, you appreciate the combination with foods, you enjoy relaxing after a long day, you enjoy the refreshing beverage on a warm day, its part of your sports watching ritual, its a social component that you enjoy...this are all wonderful reasons that make perfect sense to me and I agree with. Now...for arguments sake, why do I exercise? I appreciate the views while I am running/biking, its a good stress reliever, I use it to clear my head, it keeps me stronger and able to do more physical activities, I enjoy the competition, its rewarding, it improves my health and well being. Again, all good reasons. So, if you think its bizarre that I don't drink because you know all of those reasons above and those reasons alone should be enough for me to want to drink, plus its just abnormal...then why couldn't I counter your "one drink" comment with "run one mile". I see a variety of benefits in it, I know PLENTY of people that run races on a regular basis so I could argue that in this area it is normal, but I know enough people that dislike exercise and I completely understand all of their reasons for disliking it so I would never push someone to do it or make them feel guilty. Does that make any sense? I hope so...I am not sure if I explained myself well.

This whole idea came from me thinking about childhood obesity. Because if children are somehow taught that drinking is the norm, and cool, and social, and makes everything more could we use that train of thought to encourage healthy eating and exercise. I don't think we can because of the "breaking the rules" and rebelling component of drinking. BUT, in European cultures drinking is taught at a younger age and children learn to appreciate the taste (and many could argue, don't end up abusing it because of that) and view it as a social part of a meal, evening, whatever. So if there was a way to somehow teach children that exercise/healthy eating can be appreciated and viewed in a happy, enjoyable light as opposed to a task or something you don't want to do but you have to, then maybe these healthy behaviors could become learned as well.

But, I guess all of these ideas and actions have stemmed from years and years of cultural growth and demise and everything to change the train of thought would take years and years. Hmm...well, if nothing else, I can start with my kids haha

Friday, September 10, 2010

Slow down

(that's actually my ringtone...the Wyclef song :)) thing I really love about this job is the pace. In so many organizations they make it seem like EVERYTHING is urgent and I would argue that 99% of the time that is false (depending on the industry). For my field, the only time that something would really be urgent is if you were bidding for money and had a deadline, BUT most of the time you can get an extension anyways. I really appreciate that there are tasks, everyone has a to-do list, but none of the items need to be done in rapid fire or we will all die. It is actually kind of a hard adjustment to get used to, but I think I am adapting quite well.

I don't want to repeat everything that the comedian I heard said because then I am just being a copy cat. But, a comedian I saw earlier this week talked about how ridiculously negative Americans are. And it is so incredibly true. I have actually noticed myself doing it and I am going to try and work on that. It seems second nature to give a negative response when someone asks you a question, it almost seems like you are being cocky and arrogant if you say your life is going well. For instance, someone asks you how your day was or how the metro ride was to work. Naturally something probably wasn't perfect, but was it the worst thing ever? No. BUT we are trained to respond with something mildly negative..."eh it was okay, it was miserable as usual". I am going to try and start saying how lovely it was...wouldn't you be pleasantly surprised if you asked someone how their metro ride was during rush hour this morning and they said "great, I finished this wonderful book and listened to some of my favorite music". And if this new wave of positive responses carried over, then think of how much happier everyone would be! (and happier conversations for that matter). It seems like everything is hard (this coming from the girl that says "Life is hard" on a regular basis...but that's okay because I am cute, right?), and no matter how much you luck out on something, or how great your life is compared to someone elses, there is ALWAYS something to bitch about. Example, Question: How was work? Normal response: Ah it was really hard, boss was a dick, but whatever its almost Friday. Happy response: It was great, I got a lot done and I am just so happy to have a job given the economy.

Note the change. Embrace the change. Slow down and enjoy the little things: sunrise, sunset, blue skies, strangers walking around, good breakfast, warm hug, smile from a friend, good music...its quite easy. Life is never really that bad, promise. Be happy.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Time to get a little deep

For some reason I am compelled to discuss something I haven't yet discussed in my blog...the abuse from my past relationship. (so if you are looking for something light and cheery, you should probably stop reading now...sorry!) I think I have been thinking about it more because I offered to review and provide input to a Domestic Violence proposal that my company is writing to bid for a new contract. My issue with this is not the writing aspect, it's not the indulging of my life (because I offered this up on my own) is more so the internal battle I have with myself over whether or not I could consider myself a victim of domestic violence. Which could very well be a symptom of someone that was abused...but anyways. I think it begins with the worry that I don't want people to think I am crying out for pity or attention..and then if people do move past that, I don't want them to think I am making a big deal out of nothing because I don't in fact have any serious injuries. (Mind you, while I am typing this I am becoming more and more aware of how ridiculous it sounds...but that's okay...I will continue). All of this clearly stems from being self conscious of what other people think of me. And I would venture to guess that if you are willing to self identify yourself as being abused (even for a minute), that you probably were abused. Maybe it is the harshness of the word "abused". Maybe I don't want to admit to anyone (actually, more likely, myself because no one else thinks all these ridiculous thoughts) that I actually allowed myself to be abused...maybe I'd rather keep believing that it wasn't all that bad. Hmm...I think the embarrassment that comes along with this entire ordeal is another huge side effect. It is embarrassing to know that countless people told you to get out and you stayed...and why did I stay? Because I convinced myself that it wasn't that bad. I convinced myself that all the fighting was normal and tolerable and the emotional abuse would stop eventually and I could handle the physical abuse. That is ridiculous. I convinced myself that a lot of it was my fault and that I probably didn't deserve anything better. And the only reason I got out of it was 1. deep down I knew that that wasn't true, deep deep down I have always loved myself, and 2. I had friends and family that appreciated me (furthering the notion that none of the put downs were true).

I guess my point is that on any given day (when thinking about this part of my life) I am completely lost in competing thoughts...first being that I endured awful, life changing, pain staking, emotional and physical abuse that I hope no one else ever has to go through, second being that well maybe it wasn't all that bad because I never had a black eye or broken bone and I somehow I came out of the situation more confident then when I entered it, and third being I don't want people to think I am using this life experience for attention or pity (hmm, actually another symptom of the abuse). if you talk to me about this stuff (which I am more than willing to discuss) please remember that I may seem kind of casual about it but that's because I think part of me is still in denial, part of me is scared to embrace the shame, hurt, anger, hatred and embarrassment, and part of me doesn't want to make a big deal about something that is maybe nothing.

THANK YOU to every single person that helped me (even if I argued with you and didn't listen and you felt like you weren't being heard). On a more positive note, somehow I managed to come out of it a changed person for the better and remarkably self assured (sometimes haha), and hopefully my input on the proposal and future work on the project (if we get it) will help someone else.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I still heart you Eminem...

If you know me, you know I love Eminem...but sadly, I have come to notice that I don't particularly enjoy listening to his music :( This honestly breaks my poor little heart. I usually listen to music based on my mood, and with this new found happiness and a lack of anger towards the world, Eminem's songs bring me down and I don't want that to happen! The other day I actually tried really hard to listen to one of them (off his new CD) and I can sometimes relate to his lyrics about being sober and stuff but I just can't find that anger hood rat in myself anymore! I knew this day would come...damn growing up and finding happiness...damn you!

On a totally unrelated note...I read this article yesterday (thanks to the people that sent it to me!) "My Not Drinking Bothers Friends":, and it was awesome and perfect and everything I have ever thought. I really resonated with this section in particular "Anyway, as adults, shouldn't we make decisions based on our own preferences, strengths and weaknesses rather than allowing social norms to dictate our behavior?". I have noticed that people are cool with my decision but view it as sort of a phase and "hope" that one day I will have one drink, just to be normal. I actually heard someone say to me that it's good that I thought maybe one day I could drink again because people that cut it out completely are taking it too far. Now what in the world does that really mean? So if I accept one drink back into my life, one bottle of craptastic Miller Lite, I will be considered normal, but if I decide never to indulge in an "adult beverage" then I am being too rash? I guess it is once again just a rationalization for their behavior, but I just do not see how one drink divides normalcy from extreme weirdness. The article also talks about how the "alcoholic" issue should be reason enough to get people to back off. And it should. For example, if you pushed someone on the Atkins diet to eat a slice of bread, they wouldn't drop dead (not that you should do that, because whether or not you agree with it, they have decided to make a decision that they believe will improve their health and in no way affects you...but I digress...); however, if you push someone who quit drinking to drink they could potentially slip back into old habits and head down the unhealthy/unhappy path they'd be avoiding until you. Why would you do that?? BUT...while the "alcoholic/alcoholism" route should get people to back off, it's not the cop out approach I'd like to take because that is not why I quit and that is not why I have continued to stick with my decision. Why I stuck with my decision is easy (and reiterated at least 450 times in my blog entries haha), and I prefer to be confident in that decision then guilt you into believing that if you push me to drink, you will cause my life to go down in flames.

Now I am not 100% sure where I was going with all this rambling. But I believe my point was that there is no point in one drink (when that one drink could cost you your well-being). There is no normal. "Normal" is something that changes every year and "normal" is based on what you believe and who you surround yourself with. And besides, who wants to be normal? That's just plain boring. :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cleansing, Renewal and Happiness.

I am happy. For the first time in a very long time (probably as long as I can remember) I am completely happy with where I am in life and do not feel that urge to search for something more or change something. For as long as I can remember I have longed for something (new place to live, new job, more friends, more money, better material items, a guy), and I can 100% say that I am happy and content. That's not to say that I have reached all of my goals and am ready to call it quits BUT I have accepted where I am in life, who I am in this world and am beyond happy with what I am doing and the decisions I have made. That, my friends, is an amazing feeling :) I think what is even more amazing is to feel this way literally every day. To feel like this day was better than yesterday, and to know that tomorrow has the potential to be even better than today!

On a different note, last week I attended a suicide and methamphetamine prevention conference for Native Americans (focused on youth) and I have to say it taught me a lot and reaffirmed the feelings I've felt and decisions I've made regarding sobriety. Regardless of the substance, the abuse of anything (drugs or alcohol) is life altering and to hear children speak about how they've seen their friends and families crumble because of it was incredibly sad. On the other hand, the awareness that those experiences had given the children was better than any education campaign could ever provide. There was one topic that really stuck with me: water. For Natives, water is used in many ceremonies and is a sign of cleansing and renewal. It is used to wash away the bad and allows for a fresh start. I have always been attached to the water and have always felt a sense of peace when I am around it, that's why running/biking along the water is my favorite thing to do. So when the Native speaker was talking about how she used water to wash away the depression she felt and the hardships of drugs and start anew, it really resonated with me. I feel as though maybe deep down that is why I love the water. It is peaceful and cleansing and through everything I have endured, maybe I feel like being around it gives me a chance to start other, to feel refreshed and pure. Water can seem embracing when you are in it, sort of comforting (in relation to being in utero), and also a release for all of your baggage to be washed away in. My advice, if you are struggling with something, guilt or baggage or hardship, go to water, place all of those feelings on a rock (or another object) and throw it in the water. Allow all of those negative feelings to wash away and allow yourself to be cleansed :)

And on another note (so many random thoughts today!), I love the anti-drug commercial where the kids are puppets and they ask if you aren't in control of yourself then who is? Some could say that another part of you is in control (maybe your subconscious), but personally for some of the stupid things I have done while wasted, I'd be embarrassed to say that any part of me was in control of those actions. So if you don't think that YOU would have done what you did drunk, then who is in control of you? And if you would never want anyone else to control your life, then why would you allow a substance to do it? Why is that okay?

And for my last and final note...sober dating (I said I'd keep ya updated!). It's wonderful. Ladies, shockingly enough real men still exist that take girls on dates and do wonderful things (and I have been lucky enough to find one..and if writing that in a blog just jinxed it then I will quit my amateur writing career). And I think the sobriety aspect is nice because it allows you to grow naturally and feel those feelings that may be masked by alcohol. Maybe we are supposed to feel anxious and nervous on a first date, and maybe the butterflies are good...instead of having a drink to calm the nerves, maybe having those feelings and fumbling through decisions on whether to touch or kiss as opposed to going on instinct cause you are drunk, is a way better idea. Feeling feelings is definitely worth it. Oh and not drinking makes you quite the cheaper date and leaves more room for ordering dessert and appetizers :). And like always, I am not preaching or judging, I am just telling you how life in this different world is working out and hopefully giving some confidence to those who like to take the edge off of dating.

Okay I guess I will get back to work.