Not Tonight Honey: 3 Tips on How to Stay Sober with an Occasional Drinker

3 solutions on what to do when your spouse is an occasional drinker while you’re sober.

My husband and I have been through war and back. Literaly. We met on active duty while we were in the Army and married at 20 young years young. We honeymooned in Iraq for a year. We spent our first date drinking at a party, and spent years binge drinking when we could. We were young, and I’d always been a binge drinker, so it was nothing new to me. I’m pretty sure he knew I was a hot mess when I was drinking early in our relationship, but he accepted me anyway. Apparently he was up for the challenge.

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It wasn’t until years later that my blackouts became violent. He ended up being the babysitter when I drank. Perhaps it was the effects of war, or the unhealthy patterns in our relationship, or the father wounds I struggled with, whatever it was; my drinking days had to stop. When I bottomed out I realized one doesn’t become an alcoholic, they are born that way, and I was ready to accept that about myself. The problem was that even though I was sober, I didn’t set my boundaries in place correctly in my marriage and house, so I relapsed after a year and a half. I was still a control freak, and a demanding one.

After this relapse I was determined to stay sober, so with the help of recovery program material and counseling, we were able to find a healthy balance in our marriage with me being sober, and him (not being an alcoholic) having the occasional drink.

Here are some helpful tips on setting rules for drinking when you’re sober and your spouse is an occasional drinker. 

1.  Don’t judge.

Don’t assume because you have a drinking problem they do…most often they don’t. There were a couple occasions he drank too much with his friends after I was sober. This didn’t make him an alcoholic just because it hurt my feelings. I made the mistake of judging my husband’s drinking after being sober. Mostly I was jealous of the fact that he could still drink and control himself while I could not. There is however, a certain accountability they should maintain with you. What that accountability is, you have to determine amongst yourselves with boundary rules.

2.  Set the home environment to be safe, but do so with tact and sensitivity.

You’ve made the commitment to live sober, meaning no alcohol…not one drink….great for you but hard on the family. How are you going to communicate to your loved one who is not an alcoholic that they can’t come home and have a beer on the couch…ever? That they can’t have a beer while grilling in the yard? What about when friends and family visit? How do you tell them no alcohol?

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Sounds harsh, but it’s the life I live. I don’t want alcohol in my home…..I can’t have it in my home. Its very presence in my home creates a conflict in me so deep I get upset just thinking about it. Besides, allowing it in my home before led to relapse. I had to explain that my home is my safe place in sobriety. While the rest of the world goes on with alcohol everywhere I look, I have to have one place I can go to where I know the pressure isn’t there, a place where I know I can go and not think about alcohol. We had to compromise. My husband will occasionally have a beer with the guys after work, not in the home. Anyone who comes to my place to celebrate holidays knows not to bring wine. No biggie.

3. Be proactive (not reactive) with your triggers.

Know whether or not that beer they have at the restaurant or at that social gathering with you will piss you off. Talk about it in advance. You would think this would be easy, don’t drink in front of me, enough said. The problem is, I made a commitment to spend the rest of my life with this man. The rest of your life is a long time to commit to being sober in front of your wife when you don’t have a drinking problem. Social situations are sometimes unavoidable and sometimes awkward – but sobriety is worth it. I have to admit that in the wrong environment, in the wrong mood, being around the wrong crowd, with the wrong music playing, at the wrong time of night, these are triggers that can make me pissed when he has a drink. Other times, I can be totally cool with it. My responsibility is to know where I am at in my sobriety each day. If I’m struggling I have to say so, respectfully. If I don’t feel up to the social gathering, I have to say so. It’s much better in a marriage to be proactive instead of reactive.

I don’t have an answer for every situation or every relationship, all I know is what I’ve experienced to be true to my sobriety success. Everyone’s boundaries are going to be different. While some can never set foot in a restaurant that serves alcohol, some can, with the right boundaries in place. While some spouses have to live alcohol free for the support of the alcoholic in their life, some can still have a social drink with the right communication in place. I made the mistake the first time in recovery thinking you could put sobriety in a box, and thought that I was allowed to dictate rules with no regards to others.

Realize too, that it took 14 years of marriage (the good times and the really bad) to get us to where we are. We spent more years in counseling than not in counseling, I’ve spent more years working on myself than working on us. Realize too, that it takes two people willing to work hard at it, two people willing to compromise and sacrifice. Once I became healthy enough, I realized that love is not simply abstaining from something that poisons your relationship, it’s investing the time and energy to coming up with a solution that works for everyone involved.

While this recovery is a long and treacherous road, it’s truly a remarkable one once you learn to love yourself, and even miraculous when you learn to love others well.

Stay sober my friends.

Mommin Ain’t Easy

“Why are you so grumpy?” my 12-year-old tween asks as I drive aimlessly from the middle school down the bumpy road home. My shoulder is throbbing from a rotator cuff injury that I failed to attend therapy for this week because I found myself just too busy once again. My arm twitches in pain as I flex to keep the off-road wheels of the lifted jeep straight. “I’m not grumpy,” I impolitely snap back. “Oh, really?” she questions me. This kid actually has the balls to question me on a day like this. The drive then turns into a 15-minute lecture on communication, with me encouraging her to use I statements instead of accusatory questions to begin a conversation.

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The truth is I was grumpy. I am grumpy. Today I’m grumpy mom. It wasn’t until my daughter accused me of being grumpy that I realized just how grumpy I was. As soon as she mouthed the words I felt it. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders, pressing me down into wet cement as I tried to reach for a life ring that no one was holding. No one was holding a life ring for me because I’m too stubborn to admit defeat. I immediately felt defensive because I was defeated. I was beaten by the universe of suck today 1-0.

My fingers are stained from the numerous failed batches of bath bombs I’m selling on Etsy. None of them came out right today…none of them. I have 2 burns I’m nursing on my left thumb from grabbing a hot pan after dinner. The husband just came over to see if I’m working on that 12-page paper that’s due tomorrow. Nope. I’m sure not. I’m simply not capable of doing anything academic until I process the suck of the day first.

It all began yesterday. My 8-year-old girl had a complete meltdown. It was a doozy. It was one that involved loud, hysterical sobbing and I’m pretty sure she had boogers from her nose to her ears by the time she was done. She told me she’s no longer going to school. She told me the kids were distracting and she’s miserable and insisted on being homeschooled from now on. She’s been bullied off and on this year so it’s no surprise. Then I start putting it together. The emotional outbursts, the anger, the mean things she’s said this year, and the training bras. She’s hitting puberty early. Crap.

I do believe this realization was what triggered the type of day I would have today. It began with me listening to that little voice inside. The voice of criticism is completely overwhelming for me when poked. It began with me telling myself last night that I’m a crappy parent for being more involved in her schooling. To be honest, we haven’t touched the books in weeks, I don’t volunteer, and I haven’t even had lunch with her even though I’ve been off work. Suddenly everything is my fault and I feel like a terrible human. There it is, my old familiar friend, the voice of criticism.

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The critic inside me continued from last night through the day today. Nothing I did was right. Nothing.  I couldn’t get started on my paper because I couldn’t cite right. I couldn’t do the bills because I’m not responsible enough, and I certainly couldn’t do the laundry because I’m lazy. I did manage to ruin a dozen things I attempted to do throughout the day. I plugged along, “failing” at everything and listening to the voice of criticism all day until my daughter reminded me I’m grumpy mom today.

In a feeble attempt to get out of my head my little one and I head to the nursery to look at some plants I want to buy for the land. That’ll do it. I convince myself that this distraction is everything I need at the moment. Before I knew it the 8-year-old was poking pollen filled flowers and then rubbing the pollen in her sensitive, allergy ridden, eczema surrounded eyes. She soon howled in pain and whimpered while I checked out. I was frustrated at the events of my “distraction.” Now I was a selfish mom. We get to the parking lot where she demands I call a doctor to save her. O.M.G….

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I demand she stop touching her eye while she continues to poke at it, she’s now poking the bear. The momma bear in me roars out to her to stop being dramatic. One minute she’s a pubescent little mini tween and the next she’s a toddler poking her allergic little eyes with pollen. What the hell am I supposed to make of all this? I don’t know what I’m doing. We ride home in silence. The voice in my head is screaming, telling me what a crappy mom I am and what I could have done differently. I probably should have taken her to the bathroom to wash it out, why didn’t I do that? Why am I so stupid and selfish?

A tear runs down my cheek as my shoulder pulsates in pain from the stupid speed bumps in the parking lot. “I’m sorry,” I say it from the bottom of my heart. My heart is apologizing for the things I’m not as a mother. She looks at me with those big brown eyes and tells me it’s ok. I tell her I’m just having a grumpy mom day and nothing is going right. “I love you momma” she reassures me. I tell her I love her too and reassure her we’ll go home, and be just fine.

Motherhood is hard. There are difficulties when they’re babies, difficulties when they’re children, difficulties when they are teens, and the difficulties never really end. They just change with time. The most difficult thing I find in motherhood is overcoming that nagging voice of inadequacy, the voice of criticism that constantly torments me.

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Oftentimes I find myself floating aimlessly in this turbulent sea of motherhood until someone throws me a life ring. That someone sometimes ends up being my children. That doesn’t make me a terrible mother, it makes me a raw human being, and I think the world needs more of that.

I hope you get to enjoy your Mother’s Day weekend. Try not to listen to the voice of the inner critic. That bitch is a liar anyway.

Mommin ain’t easy. But it sure is worth it.

The Baggage of Co-Occuring Disorders

Hey, friends and fellow folks in recovery! Hope your sober weekend is off to a good start. One way to make the weekend even better is by taking the time to read my new featured article for SMH (Screening for Mental Health). It’s on the topic of Co-Occurring Disorders, and you can read it on their blog by clicking here. Thanks again to Sober Nation for this writing opportunity!

Top 3 Reasons to Choose Vulnerability

We live in a fast-paced world where no one connects…at least not in person anymore. How much time do we spend on phones comparing ourselves to others is beyond measurement? Technology has taken place of the human connection, am I right? It’s easy to turn out the world of connection with that device in hand. Technology can be a wonderful tool to connect with others.   Say you’re in line at your favorite coffee shop. Have you even noticed who has passed by you? Maybe you don’t even realize you’re in line with others because it’s really a line of people ignoring each other while on their devices in their own worlds. We don’t even notice we are literally surrounded by people when we’re online searching for a distraction from the very fact that we are lonely! We’re lonely because we no longer make ourselves vulnerable to a simple conversation while in line for coffee.

Chances are that you are in recovery or are struggling with some form of addiction or behavioral issue if you’re reading this. Part of the recovery process that is essential but rarely discussed is the vulnerability factor. Most addicts or people in recovery have spent their lives avoiding vulnerability. Even if you’re not an addict or in recovery, ask yourself. How often have you avoided people through that device, or how many masks do you wear on social media to avoid being vulnerable? I know I avoided vulnerability until I was so desperate for a change I had nowhere else to turn.

I made some very poor decisions in the first half of my marriage. My decisions were a result of my refusal to be vulnerable. My addictive personality, coupled with a ridiculous amount of codependence, along with constant isolation led me down a path of destruction. When my marriage imploded, I found myself in a recovery room full of women who struggled with love and relationship addiction. We went around the room, each having a few minutes to share about our addiction and our week in recovery. My vulnerability fear had me in an internal battle with myself. I was trembling, shaking at the thought of revealing myself as a love addict. I had never even admitted this to myself, let alone reveal it to strangers. My heart was racing, my thoughts were panicked, and my mind was somewhere far away. Before I knew it, it was my time to speak. “My name is Rachel. I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, who struggles with love and relationship addiction.” There. I said it. The words fell out of my mouth and there was no turning back. The truth was spoken.

What happened next was a mixture of emotional flurries and confusing sobs. I spent the next 5 minutes confessing everything I had done wrong in my marriage that led it to a place of separation. My words fell out like glass shattering on the floor. I thought about what this moment would look like before I had gone to recovery. I imagined that I would confess my ridiculous, inappropriate, and sinful behavior. I imagined being met with judgment. I imagined the world would come to a screeching halt, and that everyone on it would fly off simultaneously at the shock and awe of my addictive behavior. I imagined the earth would open up and swallow me whole, sending me to the fiery inferno I thought I deserved.

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Reason #1

You need to be vulnerable because it connects the human soul to others.

So there I was, confessing the deepest, darkest secrets of my part of the failing relationship in that recovery room. The world didn’t stop spinning. The earth didn’t swallow me whole. What happened next sent Holy Spirit goosebumps all down my body. Are you ready for it? No one judged me. No one gasped. No one condemned me. I was met with hugs, love, and support. They loved me just as I was. They loved the broken, messy, sinful woman I was. Some of them even said “me too,” and they became the very best friends I have ever had. I was met in my vulnerability by other addicts that had decided to be vulnerable themselves… the “me too” moments connect the souls. They connect souls through the very concept of vulnerability and shame.

Through my God’s and my husband’s forgiveness, grace and unconditional love, I was able to make myself healthy again. Our marriage was restored. If I hadn’t had the courage to be vulnerable that moment in the recovery room, I wouldn’t have discovered the power of vulnerability. I wouldn’t have discovered that vulnerability connects souls. The vulnerability was what was missing in my marriage, in my friendships, in my family, and in my life.

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Reason #2

You need to be vulnerable because, in your weakness, you are made strong.

Nowadays, I get anxiety about writing about my vulnerable moments. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? The minute after I click on the submit or send button my nerves go haywire. What if this piece totally sucks? What if I totally missed the mark? Crap. I’m completely exposed. I’m broadcasting my issues for the world to see. What will my mother think of this? Why am I doing this? I’m crazy. That’s it. I’m certifiably crazy because no one does this.

I’m a prisoner of the vulnerability induced panic attack until I can get myself under control again. Even after all I’ve learned through all my addictions and impulsive behavioral traits, I still find the vulnerability to be one of the most difficult pills to swallow in recovery. It requires trust. It requires faith. It requires humility. A vulnerability is the rawest moment a human can experience, and yet through it, we are forged by the fire.

I didn’t experience true freedom from my hang-ups until I released them into the world. I confessed, and I was free from the enslavement that secrets keep you in. My secrets kept me in bondage for years. Think about it. If you no longer have anything to hide, you really are a new creation. Life begins when you no longer have to worry about being “found out.”

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Reason #3

You need to be vulnerable because the world needs you.

Yes, you read that right. Yes, you. The world needs you. The world is full of fallen, ill, sinners like me and we need others to show us that we are going to be ok. Telling someone they are going to be ok is easy, I’m sure a monkey could be trained to do that. We need to share our stories with each other with a sense of vulnerability. We get stronger when we are vulnerable but we cannot do it alone. In the recovery world, accountability partners and sponsors save lives by making themselves vulnerable to the people they are in recovery with. This can mean the difference in life and death choices for some people.

What would happen if you made yourself vulnerable just once, on social media? Instead of showing the world how stunning you are, turn off the filter. See what happens. What happens is people get real and some may be judgmental, but to that one person who says “me, too”…well, you’ve made the world a better place to them. They breathe a sigh of relief knowing they’re not alone in their struggle, whatever it may be.

So there you have it. The reasons you need to be vulnerable have been laid out for you. What will you choose to do with the gift of vulnerability? Will you change lives or will you continue to avoid vulnerability because of shame and anxiety? The choice is yours. Being vulnerable is optional, and the road is full of difficulties, but trust me my friends, when I say it is worth it. Ultimately those who choose vulnerability choose love, and the world needs more of that.

Need to connect?

Join me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/therecoveryhaven/

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Finding your Alexander Supertramp – Thoughts on Wanderlust and the Transcendent Experience 


Current status….my sweet escape. 
I walk out to the balcony and I’m completely overtaken by the fragrant blossoms of spring in the air. It smells so sweet the air almost tastes like honey. The flora and fauna are foreign to me, they are an exotic array of colors, textures, depth, and height. The birds though, are clear as glass as they sing to me in a familiar tune that seems to shout “good morning, outta bed sleepy head!” 

The skyline is covered by a dense fog that overwhelms the entire city. It’s a mix of pollution and low lying clouds. It’s a haze that can’t be penetrated this fine morning. The sun shines from the east as it is rising slowly but methodically above the terra cotta tile shingles. It reflects on the mug of steaming coffee to my left, just within arms reach. 

This house is as foreign to me as the fragrant air and palms that surround it. It is rich in history, as it was built in 1926 I believe. The windows are my favorite tell tale sign of the decades that have passes since the fine craftsmanship of the past. Every sill is ornate, with trim in intricate patterns, and solid wood shimmed just right to fit each pane. The knobs throughout the house are a stunning mix of eclectic Art Deco mixed with class and luxury. Some are solid brass with the perfect patina over detailed scrolling all the way around the diamond shaped knob. Some are good old fashioned clear or milk glass that squeak when you turn them. The doors stick from the shifting this old house has done through the last 90+ years of existence. 

I’m drawn into immediate wonder of who might have turned these knobs, who might have opened these windows to catch that familiar California breeze. This is a multimillion dollar property in the hills of Hollywood with a stunning view of the skyline. Griffith Observatory is so close I can nearly reach out and touch it. My latest travels have led me to discover that the curiosity about travel in Los Angeles is not the what or where, but it intrigues the senses to discover the who. 


Got myself a threadbare gypsy soul….

Each place I’ve travelled is different but one thing remains, my mind becomes free as I engage in my surroundings with child like wonder once again. My heart is full and light. There’s a carefree pep in my step. My soul….well it is absolutely satisfied. My soul is satisfied that I’ve scratched that itch once more. I get bit by the travel bug all the time, and what it leaves is a itch that cannot be relieved by anything but good old fashioned travel and adventure.  

I’ve been accused of having a gypsy soul, and here I sit, guilty as charged, in a new city, that is waiting patiently to be explored by every sense I have in my body. It is said that “You see someone who has a gypsy soul is a person in need of change or an adventure. A gypsy soul seeks for the next best thing in any situation. They can be very passionate and inspired by different ideas, attitudes and experiences. … Sure, gypsy souls have a wild heart” (The Odyssey Online). Having a gypsy soul doesn’t mean I’m a pagan, I’m a Christian who happens to see My God and his son in all my travels. I struggle with wanderlust and that struggle, my friends, is real. 

On wanderlust….

Wanderlust is a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about (dictionary.com). I’ve had this desire as long as I can remember. My mother will tell you it’s true. We roamed the country with my father, as he was in the Navy and we moved frequently. I know the moment my gypsy soul was formed and the wanderlust began. It began when I was just a small child, maybe 4 or 5. I was really too young to remember such details but they were forever engraved in my memory for some reason. We took a road trip from Rhode Island, all the way to Washington State. I remember the sound of the wheels on the highway. I remember the sights and sounds. Most importantly, I remember the connection of my spirit to nature. I was hooked on travel from then on. 

That’s great right, but what does this have to do with recovery? Well besides the CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) benefits of travel, like mindfulness for example, there’s much more going on than just travel and adventure. I believe there’s a genuine healing property found in nature. I believe it because I’ve lived it. It began when my mother left my father when I was a little girl. 


Riding the transcending wave….

I was being carried out of the house in the middle of the night. I had my favorite blanket wrapped around me and the air was filled with the scent of the pines of Washington State. These trees seemed to reach the sky. Without saying a word, I knew what we were doing. We were leaving. I asked and it was confirmed. I looked up to the sky and saw the brightest stars my little eyes had ever seen. The sky was black, but the stars were so clear they seemed to be pinholes in the darkness. I looked at the moon and I knew. I knew there was someone up there watching over me, protecting me, guiding me. It was a moment that only lasted a few seconds, but it’s a moment that I re-live often. It was my moment of freedom. It was my connection of my higher power to nature, and to my human spirit. They were all connected; god, the universe, and myself.

What I experienced was a moment of transcendental realization. Transcendent (per Google dictionary) is being beyond ordinary or common experience, thought, or belief; supernatural. I think the common ground we have here is that each person in recovery has experienced transcendentalism. This is why it’s encouraged to believe in a higher power, because in order to truly change a persons soul, they have to experience something that connects them to the rest of the universe. Without this experience the individual continues the cycle of behavior they are trying to change. My transcendental moments happen over and over again in nature, mostly but not always while satisfying that wanderlust I was talking about. 

My challenge question to you is when did you first have a transcendent experience? What was it like for you? Was it healing? What can you do to experience it again? 

My two favorite recovery and nature movies are Wild and Into the Wild. I highly recommend a viewing of these if you’re stuck for motivation. If these don’t motivate you to get out there and explore your transcendence, I don’t know what will.

I leave you with this thought to ponder. “The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” – Christopher McCandless

A Plate of True Grit-With a Side of Resilience 

A fellow writer afforded me the opportunity to share my story. I am forever grateful for the community of connectedness and sharing found in the modern writers world. 

Here goes the story of how I overcame many obstacles to become a success story instead of a statistic. 

https://transformation-is-real.com/blog/true-grit-side-of-resilience

The Spiritual Disconnect of Alcohol

Today is my birthday and I’ll celebrate it. I have learned in recovery though that holidays are full of triggers, especially birthdays when there’s a father wound. Here is my story of how my fathers death brought us closer. Shout out to https://sobernation.com/ for publishing me and making this dream possible.

Click here to check out my story:https://sobernation.com/the-spiritual-disconnect-of-alcohol-2/