stages of sober

in my 3rd month of giving up the juice, i am finding that, like most things in life, especially things that involve change or that i have had to make a big decision about, there are stages.  

like losing my uterus:  stages- 1. devastation, 2. embarrassment / failure, 3. kept it to myself 4. began talking / healing,  5. moving forward

6. sharing,  7. helping others.

death: 1. shock / denial 2. pain and guilt 3. anger 4. depression 5. upward turn 6. working through 7. acceptance and hope

medicating my child : 1. devastating 2. feeling like a failure 3. denial 4. anger 5. information gathering 6. acceptance 7. peace

possible stages for giving up the drink: 1. paralyzed by fear 2. wondering who i am / worried about friends 3. realizing how heavy it is.  4. noticing when i want to reach for a drink 5. redefining fun 6. getting used to it. 7- clarity on alcohol in my life.

i have come to find out that there are 2 kinds of people.  the drinkers- people who wrestle with it a bit and the non drinkers- people who don’t drink or don’t notice if they did or didn’t drink.  when i told the non-drinkers that i was going to quit drinking for a year they said something like, “okay.  did you hear about the score of the game?”  the drinkers would say, “what?  what in the hell are you talking about?  are you serious?  why would you want to do that?”  some of the drinkers feel weird about me not drinking.  like i am judging them or am now on the ‘other side’.  that could be further from the truth.  i am just looking at me.  who i am.  why i drink.  that is all i have time to do.  

one thing i know for sure, i am not my greatest self when i am drinking.  besides my voice getting louder and going up an octave, i get a bit more “ballsy” than i normally am (which is already a lot).  i also say things i regret, wake up feeling like s#*t, and fight with my husband unnecessarily- mind you, sometimes it is necessary.

things that suck about not drinking:

*i thought i would be popping right out of bed in the morning with an extra skip in my step, but i’m not.  i want to stay in bed just as bad as when i was hung over.  

*everyone said, “you are going to lose weight not drinking all of those calories”  that has not happened so much.  i gained 6 pounds the first few weeks because i thought i could eat more because i wasn’t drinking.  now i am back to normal and breaking even.

*i think i exercise better hung over.  maybe because there is still alcohol in my body and i am sweating it out.  my limbs feel heavier sober.  i am way more aware of my body.  i hear my breathing.  i guess i am more present.  i am more present in all of my life which isn’t always fun.  the stage i am at now, being sober feels a bit boring.   

*i don’t want to go out to dinner.  why go to cpk with all of the kids and have to discipline, bounce the baby, and break up the kids touching each other, if i can’t have my two glasses of wine?  why bother?  girls night out?  i can just talk over coffee or on the phone.  the excitement is out of most activities that used to be activities to drink.

tonight i made meatballs with fun moms from school.  last year i drank a bunch of red wine and had a blast.  we all wrote down something naughty about ourselves and people read them out loud and you had to guess who wrote it.  it was so fun.  this year i rolled big fat meatballs that weren’t quite what they were looking for.  no matter how much meat i scooped up, it was a mushy oversized mess.  i thought i would be home by 10pm, but i actually got home at 10:30pm.  back in the day i would stay until the party was over or the wine ran out.  the good thing is, i am kind of crazy fun normal.  so it’s not like i shrivel up into a corner.  i still flit about and kick it.  i had a great time tonight with the gals.  really a lovely group of women.  i had a great time and was sober!  huh?  jan. 1st i might not have believed it possible.  

times i want to drink: to relax around dinner time, when i want to lose myself, when i am stressed out, when i have a social event and am anxious, when i am mad, when my kid has a freak out, when i want to celebrate, the list goes on and on.  now each time i think, “oh a drink would really help right now”, i wait a minute, then i try and go to the next step- why would it help?  exploring what i am feeling or what it is that is making me want to reach for one.  i am starting to notice what is going on in me rather than pouring booze over it.  is it fun?  no.  is it heavy? yes. i need a drink just to think about why i am not drinking.  it is very interesting.  i am learning new stuff about me.  i was so insecure thinking about not drinking at the end of last year, so nervous, but i am doing it and still having a happy life.  

some days seem like great days to drink and seemingly fewer days seem like great days to not drink.  i had one of those great days to not drink on monday.  i shot a huggies commercial with my husband and eve in the morning.  in the afternoon i shot another one of my ‘no mundane moments’.  that night i had some really quality time with my kids.  i just sat and listened to their sweet voices.  just before the twins went to bed i was sitting between them on the couch.  usually i would have one arm around a twin and the other holding a glass of wine.  i noticed the twins were both snuggled up under me with my arms around both of them.  i had such a full productive loving day.  the best day.  

i don’t think about drinking every day like i did at the beginning, but i do still miss it.  there are times i think this would be a great time to drink.  my birthday is coming up in a week.  i usually have dinner at dan tana’s with a group of friends and family.  i get a grey goose martini up with olives to start, then red wine with my veal parmigian.  i wonder if i will eat out?  part of me is like, “why bother”?  a few days after my birthday is st. paddy’s day.  beer beer beer.  can you ever have enough beer?

i am seeing an awesome mindfulness coach.  she told me eventually i will find different ways to “have fun” without being destructive.  i look forward to that.  not sure where that fun would come from?  painting, exercising, writing, meditating???  can those be considered “fun”?

what do non drinkers do for fun?  that might be my next stage.  finding out what fun means without alcohol.

right now i find my self saying to people, “next year i will be toasting with you.”  

i wonder what next year will bring?  i wonder what stage i will be at?  will i not even care to drink again because life is that good?  will i have worked through all of the issues that made me want to have ‘just one more drink’ and be able to drink like a normal person?  or will i give it a shot and have the same regretful mornings?  

this will be exciting for me to find out!  no matter what happens, right now i am feeling good and learning a lot.  

with my birthday and st. paddy’s day soon approaching, i raise my glass of hot tea to you and say, “cheers, my friend.  cheers!”.



9 Comments to “stages of sober”

  1. Kim Brown 9 March 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Hey – be proud of yourself that you made up your mind to do this! Life is hard! You can figure out how to handle it….just take one day at a time!

  2. Michal Harris 9 March 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    I keep track of you, Leigh. I’m not sure what it is, but I always check up. I am so interested in your non drinking experiment. I stopped drinking when my kids were little because my husband drank so much, I felt someone had to be sober around the kids. I didn’t drink at all for maybe 15 years. Just recently I’ve started to have a glass of wine or a cocktail when I’m out. I don’t want alcohol every day, like I did before my kids. What I do want is too much food. It’s all the same thing. One thing I learned is that you can have fun without it. Although I have to be very mindful to have some cake, not The Cake, I have fun without it. You will too. Go out, figure out who you are without it. Those people who have a hard time with you stopping, they are not the drinkers, they have a problem. When I was pregnant my mother in law called me a sorehead for not drinking. She was an alcoholic. Just sayin’.

  3. treemckay 9 March 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    love this…alot.

  4. Leigh 10 March 2012 at 6:02 am #

    thank you!

  5. Leigh 10 March 2012 at 6:04 am #

    thank you michal harris! i have always loved you.

  6. Leigh 10 March 2012 at 6:05 am #

    thank you kim brown! one day at a time for just about everything, now alcohol too. all the best, leigh koechner

  7. jen 11 March 2012 at 12:04 am #

    i as going to type out something profound – but then i realized that your friend Michal had already written it word for word – so I will say this instead – I know you, my crazy friend – and I know that this cannot be easy – but I think already has been really good for you – and eye-opening to have to look at your *stuff* and why you want to drink. I can say that without a doubt, you are and always have been super fun, booze or no booze…I’m proud of you, my friend!

  8. Starisi 13 March 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    You continue to amaze and enchant me. Congratulations my friend!

  9. Leigh 12 April 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    thanks jen. you are an amazing woman and an amazing friend! i would say mother too, but haven’t been around with you and your kids that much to weigh in. but because you are so good at the first two, i will go out on a limb. you are an amazing mom!

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