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sober lifestyle

Calculation

For our first “date night” of the summer, my husband and I dove headfirst into the deep end of post-COVID reality, crawling through stop-and-go traffic down I-95 to Citizens Bank Park for last Sunday’s full-capacity Phillies-Yankees game.

On the drive to the stadium, we discussed how nice it was not to have a dog in the fight.

You see, the last time we were here, back in August of 2019, we came to see the Cubs…who rewarded our loyalty by blowing a 5-run lead and serving up a walk-off grand slam to Bryce Harper. 🤨

It was at that game that I first tried keeping score as a sobriety strategy — a hands-busying distraction from all the alcohol swirling around me — and it worked so well on Day 40 that I went back to it on Day 708.

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Choice

You know what scares me? I mean, besides needles — heading to get a COVID shot in a few hours…thoughts and prayers, please?!? — and heights and enclosed spaces and failure and feisty geese on the Delaware Canal…

OK, so nearly everything scares me. But specifically, what I’m talking about here, is my own laziness.

Maybe that’s a harsh way to put it. But how else would you describe a natural inclination, when given free time and freedom of choice, to choose the path of least resistance — or, really, the path of no resistance — every time?

In other words, unless I believe I HAVE to do something, I will ALWAYS choose to do nothing.

Thinking back, pretty much everything I’ve ever done in my life, outside of sitting on my ass in my home watching TV, or lying in my bed sleeping, I did because I forced myself to do it. I told myself I didn’t have a choice.

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Composure

“Now, I don’t want you to freak out…” my boss said as she walked into my office on Monday morning, my 21st day at this new job.

As if there’s any other possible thing to do after hearing that.

As if I hadn’t been hanging on by a thread to begin with.

Luckily, I’ve become rather good at stuffing down my emotions over the past few years — I mean, it’s not really a “good” thing, given the effect it’s had on my digestive health, but it has kept me employed and more or less free of conflict in my personal life since I quit drinking — and so I only cracked a little bit when my boss told me she’s leaving the company. I only shed a few tears when I learned that, despite taking this job largely because I liked this person and felt comfortable working for her, and then relying on her to help ease my transition into an unfamiliar industry and whole new set of professional duties, I’d have to adjust AGAIN to working for a completely different person before I’d even settled in to my role.

Inside, I was absolutely freaking out, but I managed to keep my composure within the walls of my workspace. I kept showing up and hanging on to that thread for four more days.

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Strength

Someone at work commented on my arms yesterday. Well, what he actually said was, “You must really be into working out! You’re all muscle! What do you do…like, CrossFit?”

I laughed. This poor guy stopping by my office had no idea what he was in for! He clearly didn’t know: I’m one of those people who’s programmed to launch into her entire life story in response to any remotely personal question!

It’s genetic. I can’t help it. Have you met my mom?

These genes also gifted me with muscular arms. They look athletic — even, apparently, when I’m addicted to sugar and pretty much all I’m lifting is my bodyweight on a yoga mat — and people have been staring at/commenting on them for most of my adult life.

You know how some women can’t have a conversation without the other person’s eyes darting down to their chest? I have zero experience with that specifically, but I can kind of relate.

“Uh, yeah, in a former life,” I told the guy standing in my office. “I barely lift at all anymore. I mean, I still do some type of exercise every day. But, you see, I’m 43, and I have this job, and I’m tired all the time, and I eat dessert every night, and then there’s this issue with my digestive system…

“Things are just really different now.”

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Attitude

You might not be able to tell from my quitting-time selfie, but I felt really good on Friday. And considering how big a beating my body has taken over the last three weeks in the process of adjusting to a new job, that was a huge freaking deal.

Three weeks! Can you believe it? I’ve already been at this 8-to-5, in-person office gig for three weeks!

That’s long enough not to need Google maps to chart my commute, or my lunchtime walk, which I now know is exactly two laps around the industrial park before the 30-minute timer goes off on my phone. I’ve actually been making it out and back in 25…which is perfect, because you know how I feel about being late! 🤣

On Friday, I wanted to stay out there all afternoon, strolling around past the warehouses and production plants in sunny 70-degree weather, stylishly AND comfortably dressed in my sleek black AG jeans and cute sleeveless Stitch Fix top — a far cry from the roomy Under Armour leggings and Chicago sports hoodies I lived in for the past year. I wanted to make the absolute most of this uncharacteristically upbeat attitude, which seemed to hit me at random out of the clear blue sky.

Sadly, “downbeat” is my lifelong default. I’m naturally negative. I have Eeyore-esque tendencies. I never met a situation I couldn’t overcomplicate with fear, worry, and expecting the worst. Give me a particularly difficult situation, and I’ll get so overcome by concern that I’m physically sick to my stomach. For three full weeks…

…minus one day.

Thank goodness for days like Friday, when, for whatever reason, I suddenly remember how great it is to be alive.

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Authority

As a reporter, I was never an expert on the sports I covered — not even softball or volleyball, which pretty much consumed my life throughout my teens — but I was at least present and (mostly) paying attention at games. So, in addition to recording hits and runs and yards and points, I could observe actions and reactions. I could absorb emotions. I could pick up on body language and facial expressions and all the little details that come together to make a compelling story. And then, I could (nervously) walk up to the players and coaches and ask about their experience, adding an extra layer of depth to my understanding of the event and empowering me to tell people all about it in the newspaper or an online video.

Switching from journalism to marketing in mid-life has been an incredibly tough transition, and after two weeks in my latest new job, I think I’ve identified the root of the struggle.

My whole life, one of my biggest fears has always been not knowing — the answers, the way, what to say, what to do, what to expect — because if you don’t know, what use are you to the world?

So far, my entire marketing career has been a whole bunch of not knowing. I seriously feel like I’ve been in a constant state of confusion for three straight years. In trying to stay afloat financially after my journalism job dead-ended in 2018, I basically dove off a cliff — it was a precarious perch, but I’d grown somewhat comfortable there — into an ocean of uncertainty.

Sometimes, I wonder if I’ll ever learn to swim. All this furious paddling and kicking to keep my head above water can get really exhausting.

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Adjustment

My stomach has been flipping and flopping nonstop all week, so when I say I “gutted out” my first five days commuting to and from a brand new job and adjusting to a completely different schedule/routine, I mean it literally. 🤢

There’s still rumbling going on in there now, as I write this. It’s 5 AM on Saturday, and while I don’t feel close to tip-top physical or mental shape — you folks with IBS will understand how this brutal condition can consume a person in a vicious cycle, being both the cause and result of stress — I wanted to check in here and reflect on a few significant milestones.

I had an opportunity to do that publicly — as in, face to face with other humans in the same room — on Friday morning at my first big marketing meeting at the new company. Apparently, the custom for my coworkers is to go around the table every week and announce everyone’s personal and professional “bests.”

I had a doozy of a personal highlight to share, considering I’d cleared the 22-month sober milestone on the same day I started this job, and job transitions are pretty much the most stressful non-life-and-death situations I can imagine.

But of course, I sat on that, because what kind of weirdo tells a group of complete strangers they’re a recovering alcoholic?

Such an egregious example of oversharing is completely beyond my comprehension. I would never get so anxious that I spilled my guts just to fill awkward silence!! 😐

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Rewards

My husband and I booked an ocean-view suite on the “concierge floor” of a quirky old Victorian hotel in Rehoboth Beach, Del., for a brief weekend getaway to celebrate my new job. The accommodations came with a list of perks, and the friendly young man in the suit who greeted us in the lobby (I think he was the actual concierge) was eager to tell us about them as he chaperoned us to our room.

I got distracted staring out the glass elevator shaft at the Atlantic, so I didn’t hear most of what he said. But I snapped back to attention when he pulled a pair of coupons out of his pocket.

“…and as a welcome gift, we’re happy to offer you BOTH complimentary alcoholic beverages at the bar!”

I burst out laughing. An inappropriate reaction, but I couldn’t help myself. It was like some internal pressure relief valve opened, and all the nervous energy and anxious tension I’d felt building up in my body throughout our three-hour drive came gushing out. And of course, because it’s me, this happened in the most awkward way possible.

The guy must’ve been used to all kinds of weirdness, because he barely missed a beat. “Orrrr…” he said, “if one of you doesn’t drink, it’s two drinks for the other person!”

“Thanks,” Hubby replied, taking the vouchers and handing the guy an obligatory tip as the elevator dinged and I dashed, still giggling, out the door down the hallway.

Nearly two years sober, and he still can’t take me anywhere.

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