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Alcohol and Sleep

 

Alcohol causes drowsiness. This has led to the popular misconception that it can aid sleep. Up to 20 percent of Americans report using alcohol as a sleep aid. However, alcohol negatively impacts the quality of your sleep, as well as how long you can expect to sleep. Alcohol consumption before bed causes interrupted sleep, due to side effects such as night sweats and disturbed REM sleep.

Alcohol dependence and sleep disorders are often co-morbid – people suffer both at the same time. Alcohol-related sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, and daytime fatigue.

The problem with using alcohol as a sleep aid

Alcohol does reduce the initial amount of time required for you to fall asleep. However, it result in disrupted sleep. 

The problem with using one drink as a sleep aid, is that while it may work initially, eventually your body develops a tolerance for it. As a result, you may find yourself needing more and more levels of alcohol in order to fall asleep, which can lead to alcoholism. Using alcohol as a sleep aid is dangerous as it can lead to dependence and even alcoholism. 

One drink before bed may not impact sleep quality or length. However, the effects of alcohol on sleep are directly correlated – the more alcohol that is consumed, the worse the effects on sleep. 

How does alcohol interrupt sleep?

After a few drinks, especially in people who don’t drink much, individuals often report subjectively shallow sleep and frequent mid-night awakenings, according to a joint study by Wayne State University and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Interrupted sleep may be caused by a variety of factors, all attributed to alcohol consumption:

  • Alcohol causes more abrupt transitions between sleep stages, causing more vivid dreams 
  • Alcohol is a diuretic – which means that it can cause you to need to use the restroom during the night
  • Alcohol causes snoring and sleep apnea
  • Alcoholism can induce or worsen the effects of insomnia
  • Alcohol brings on night sweats, which can be especially problematic for people who already tend to sleep hot

Why does alcohol cause night sweats?

Drinking lowers the body’s core temperature slightly, followed by a rise. 

Thermoregulation during sleep is key to maintaining sleep homeostasis (keeping the body asleep). During stage 2 of light sleep, the body’s core temperature drops. Cooler body temperature aids the body’s ability to sleep. This is why exercise late at night can interfere with your ability to fall asleep – it energizes you and increases your body temperature. 

By allowing the body’s temperature to drop, alcohol initially helps you fall asleep. However, once the effects wear off, your body counteracts it with a corresponding premature rise in body temperature. As a result, people who drink heavily before bed wake up earlier than expected.

Can drinking alcohol cause sleep apnea?

Sleep-disordered breathing, a dyssomnia affecting millions of people, is made worse by alcohol.

There’s a connection between obstructive sleep apnea and alcohol consumption. Drinkers can experience apnea if only for a night. Alcohol impairs breathing in sleep by relaxing the throat muscles. As the throat muscles relax, they narrow and obstruct the airway, resulting in snoring. Even people who normally don’t snore do so if they have been drinking the night before. Snorers without apnea can exhibit apnea symptoms if they have been drinking. 

Alcohol consumption also affects the brain’s breathing center by masking the effect of low oxygen levels in the bloodstream, possibly damaging tissue. Hangover symptoms – attributed to the efforts of the body to metabolize alcohol – are frequently partially due to breathing-disordered sleep.

The link between alcoholism and insomnia

Insomniacs are more likely to drink before bedtime than good sleepers. Knowing alcohol’s ability to cut sleep latency times, insomniacs could be more likely to take a drink before bed – self medicating with whatever is in the liquor cabinet.  Maybe this works as a short-term fix, but for most people it is not a long-term solution.  Frequent alcohol use can lead to a dependency and over sustained use, as alcohol changes the sleep cycle.

Insomnia and alcoholism can both be chronic conditions and are often co-morbid (exist together).

Sleep fragmentation and difficulty in maintaining sleep are common in alcoholics – both those who drink and those who are trying to quit.  Sleep problems are often experienced by people who cut back on their alcohol consumption. Alcoholics in recovery programs have to remember this. Insomnia is both a symptom of withdrawal, as well as alcohol dependence,  so alcoholics are likely to face sleep problems no matter what. 

Not only is insomnia more prevalent in alcoholics who are not trying to quit (estimated as high as 45%), but the detoxification process during quitting increase the likelihood of insomnia even more. Studies of alcoholics who quit drinking have found it takes a while for sleep to return to a normal pattern. Addicts have fragmented sleep, and sleep fragmentation persists in abstainers for over a year. Sleep latency returns to normal a few months after quitting.

In fact, poor sleep and the discomfort it brings is thought to be a major reason for relapseamong alcoholics trying to quit. There is also the causal arrow running in the opposite direction. People who don’t get a good night’s sleep and are tired during the day may be more apt to drink in the evening.

If you think you may be at risk for alcoholism, you can find help through Alcoholics Anonymousor the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

The impact of alcohol on brain wave activity during sleep

Chronic alcohol consumption disturbs the function of calcium channels in the thalamus, which is part of the brain involved in sleep regulation.  Even for non-alcoholics, drinking alcohol alters the brain wave activity experienced during sleep. 

It is normal for your brainwave activity to change during the night according to the different stages of sleep. When you’re awake, you experience alpha brain waves. During the stages of non-REM sleep, you transition from theta waves to spindle waves to slow waves, and finally delta waves. Once you enter REM sleep, your brain exhibits alpha waves similar to those experienced while awake. People who drink alcohol before bed tend to exhibit higher amounts of alpha brain waves and delta waves than those who don’t. The combination of these two types of brainwave activity interferes with your sleep cycle and ability to get truly restorative sleep.

Does alcohol affect REM sleep?

Your body requires the entire sleep cycle in order to receive the benefits of a good night’s sleep. REM sleep in particular accounts for about 25 percent of the sleep cycle. REM sleep is when dreams occur and you experience muscle paralysis. During this critical stage of sleep, your mind and body are renewed. During REM sleep, the brain restores neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals are directly associated with your mood, which is why a lack of REM sleep often results in crankiness, irritability, and overall poorer mood. Lack of REM sleep is also associated with reduced concentration, impaired memory and motor skills.

Many insomniacs take a drink of whiskey or wine before bedtime in order to reduce sleep latency. While alcohol does help people get to sleep faster, drinking has been shown to result in low quality of sleep as measured by nighttime awakenings (fragmented sleep) and decreased time spent in REM sleep.

In controlled studies with EEG monitoring, researchers have found that REM is suppressed early in the nighttime, but that the REM rebound effect can occur in the second half of the night.

What is the REM rebound effect?

The “rebound effect” refers to the effect alcoholism takes during the second half of your sleep cycle. Imbibing enough alcohol to reach a blood alcohol level of .06 to 0.8 within one hour of falling asleep helps induce sleep. However, once your body processes the alcohol, your body will wake you up four to five hours later and interrupt the later part of the night, when you spend more time in REM sleep. Once your body processes the alcohol, your body is easily stimulated by your environment. As a result, people who drink alcohol often wake up during the night or find themselves disturbed more easily. 

Alcohol tends to be metabolized rapidly, so halfway through the night the concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream is down to approximately zero.  The metabolites are still around and the effects of the alcohol persist (that’s where hangovers come from). Over time, the early waking from REM sleep can lead to insomnia. Alcoholics are also more prone to insomnia, especially during periods of withdrawal

Does alcohol impact sleep differently for men or women?

There is some evidence that in general men and women react to alcohol differently.  A study on young adult women showed alcohol increased their time in deep sleep, while cutting REM sleep.  Men, on the other hand, experience a decreased in both deep and REM sleep after drinking.  These are very general trends, and individuals differ widely in their reactions.

A more recent study found women’s sleep is MORE affected by alcohol than men’s, perhaps due to the fact that women metabolize alcohol at a faster rate than men. Women are also more prone to insomnia, which often coexists with alcoholism.

Additional resources:

HELP.ORG

 From Help.org photo credit 

From Help.org photo credit 

Busy Living Sober is excited to share with you Help.org guide on topics: 

·      alcohol assessments

·      the rehab process 

·      different types of treatments that are available

If you think you may have a problem with alcohol or drugs this is a wonderful resource.

Here is the link:

https://www.help.org/guide-to-alcohol-rehab/

Thank you to Help.org for sharing this valuable information to our community.

Recovery Tips For Professionals: Seeking Help Without Harming Your Career

Photo via Pixabay by StartupStockPhotos

We are thrilled to welcome Eva Benoit our first guest blog contributor. She has some great tips that we hope you find beneficial. 

About 6 years ago,  Eva Benoit left her job as an office manager to pursue being a life, career, and overall wellness coach. She specializes in helping professionals with stress and anxiety, but welcomes working with people from all walks of life. She works with her clients to discover and explore avenues that will bring them balance, peace, and improved overall well-being that can last a lifetime. Her website is evabenoit.com 

For many professionals, it takes a lot of time, sacrifice, and hard work to move up the ladder within a business. When substance abuse becomes an issue, it can be extremely stressful to think about how you will find a successful path to recovery without it damaging your career and all the hard work you’ve put into it. That stress--along with anxiety, symptoms of depression, and other mood disorders--can lead to more substance abuse, perpetuating a cycle that is overwhelming and seemingly impossible to get out of.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help your career stay on track even while you seek help for an addiction. From being open about your decision to find sobriety to focusing on maintaining your relationships and support system, you can find the help you need without worrying about it affecting your career. Educating yourself on your rights in the workplace is important as well.

Keep reading for some great tips on how to get started.

Be open

It’s always better to be open about a major life decision than it is to try to hide things from your employer. Talk to your boss about your decision to seek help, especially if you think you may need inpatient treatment, and go over what your options are for taking time off work. You don’t have to give any details you aren’t comfortable with, but letting your superiors know what you’re going through will help them assist you when it comes to sorting out medical leave.

Find the right treatment

There are so many different treatment options out there; there’s no one right way to head toward recovery, so do some research on facilities and counselors to get an idea of what you want. Some facilities are specifically geared toward professionals who need to maintain a presence at work, which would alleviate some stress when it comes to figuring out medical leave and protecting your privacy. Go here for some great info on treatment options.

Learn how to manage stress and anxiety

One of the most difficult things about seeking help with an addiction is learning how to control stress, since it can contribute so heavily to substance abuse. Look for the biggest stress inducers in your life, and think of ways to reduce them or cope with them in healthy ways. For instance, if your main source of stress is financial, consider creating a budget that will be easy to stick to for your family. Get organized, both at home and at work, and reduce clutter in all the spaces you spend the most time in. You might also consider practicing yoga and meditation, as they can help you learn to cope with negative feelings and turn them away.

Garner support

Having a strong circle of support is imperative when it comes to seeking help for an addiction. Having someone on your side who will root for you when you feel overwhelmed will help you stay motivated and empowered. Talk to your closest friends and family members about your decision to get help, and map out a plan for recovery that will hold you accountable.

Going into recovery without harming the career that you’ve worked so hard for can be overwhelming, so it’s important to take things slowly and think hard about your decisions before acting on them. With support and patience, you can get healthy and make better choices, which will have long-reaching positive consequences. Remember to practice self-care during this time and reduce stress as much as possible.

My Independence Day

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Fourth of July 2018 is right around the corner and all I have been thinking about is freedom! Freedom to live, freedom to feel any way we want to feel. The ability to protest: the ability to voice our concerns and our rights. Freedom today means a lot of different things to me. For example: when I was drinking I choose to have some of my freedoms taken from me, such as the freedom to drive my car. My freedom to do anything was changed the minute I took that first drink because all bets were off after I started drinking. It wasn’t the first drink that may have gotten me drunk, but the first drink did effect the receptors in my brain that control my ability to make sane rational decisions. 

The disease of alcoholism affects my brain. It doesn’t necessarily affect my legs or my mouth, but I did say things that weren’t appropriate when I was drinking, and I fell down a lot after a couple of drinks. So, my brain that is in control of my thoughts and my legs was altered and really did not function the way that it is meant to function. The choices I made were not choices that I might have made if I were stone-cold sober. And that, my friends is a problem! Who wants to make decisions that upon waking the next morning they regret? No one! Drinking takes away all of our control, especially if we drink too much, which I did! So, the freedom I feel today, I LOVE! 

Love and freedom are the two things that I cherish most in the world today. It isn’t the material items (even though I do like those too), it is the things that you can’t see with your eyes that matter. 

Unfortunately, when someone is in the midst of their addiction the last thing they think they are going to gain is freedom. I never in a million years thought that was going to be one of the most important gifts of sobriety. Once you quit and are living in the acceptance that alcohol and drugs don’t work for you the clarity of the situation becomes apparent.  

When you are addicted to drugs, alcohol or both those vices have a hold on you in ways that I can only compare to living in prison. All you want is more and it is never enough. The drug of choice is constantly calling your name. It becomes your God! Alcohol was my best friend and constant companion and little did I know how much it affected every decision I ever made! 

Today I am not longer driven by or dictated to by alcohol. I am FREE and I hope for the remainder of my life I will be grateful and never go back. If you are out there struggling I promise life will be better than you could ever imagine without the need to get a fix! Freedom will come; it may take time but eventually it will happen. 

If you feel alone or are battling the horrendous disease of addiction please reach out! 

Happy 4th of July! 

Bizzy

Last week was tough....

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Last week was a tough one for all of us to swallow! People that we may have perceived as having it all took their own lives. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were the crème de la crème!!! They both were the best in their perspective industries. But, that was not enough. Money, prestige, fame and it still did not fill them. People need more than material items to make them feel whole. In my opinion they need love, attention and real friendship.

Today there is so much noise in the world. Social media and the news never stop. Twitter, CNN, Facebook, Fox News, and my list can go on and on… does it ever stop? NO! It doesn’t.  24/7/365 the chatter never stops. Does all that noise mean anything? Does a click of the mouse over the Like sign really mean anything? Is having a certain number of followers or friends on a computer screen the same as having a relationship with a friend? I think not!

I have followers and friends on Facebook, but the real friendships I have with a handful of friends that I have had for decades trump everything. In fact, my friends that I love mean more than anything to me; they are my family that I chose. They are the people that I call when I am feeling sad or lonely or even if I just want to say hi. My friends are the ones that I want to call when anything exciting or sad happens in my life. These friends did not come easily; I work on my friendships. It is actually kind of crazy that I have had my closest friends for decades…through high school, college, marriages, children, parents passing away, our own divorces, through it all!

A wise therapist that I attempted once saw asked me, “Don’t you have a friend? Someone that you can talk to?”. I sat and thought to myself, yes I do!!!! I left that brilliant woman’s office, jumped in my car and called one of my closest friends and told her what the therapist said. She laughed and said, “Smart lady”. I am not saying that therapists aren’t important.  Some people can really benefit from seeing someone but for me I am blessed beyond words because I do have a friend that I can call and tell everything too. ! The good, the bad and the ugly! They will listen and maybe have words of advice; but they will laugh with me, cry with me and be there no matter what. They do not judge…

Where do you find these friends? God puts people in our paths daily. You can’t walk into a store without running into a real human being. My first reaction when I run into people is I say, “Hi!”. Now living on the East Coast is a little different than being in St. Louis or the Midwest but people generally respond with a “hi!” back. Some will ignore me and that’s ok, but addressing fellow humans is how I was raised. Say hello be friendly. I am a firm believer in including people rather than excluding. We need each other! No computer screen is going to give you the warm feeling that you get when a complete stranger smiles at you.

So you meet a stranger, say, “Hi!”, and if you start a conversation and realize that you have some things in common it isn’t that crazy to ask if they want to grab a cup of coffee, or go for a walk. Nothing huge or momentous. Having someone to talk to is really important and having someone to tell your feelings to is even more important. People pay to have therapists and life coaches to listen to them, but what if you could find the same wisdom and advice from a friend? I have been lucky in that way.

Being able to tell someone all of my crazy, deep, dark secrets has helped me to have a happy and prosperous life. The freedom one receives from letting all the dark stuff go is beyond what I can describe.

Money can’t buy real friendship! Having an open heart and mind is where friendships begin. Being able to get off of the electronic devices and just be with another person and talk is the BEST!

Reach out, be willing to be vulnerable and listen. Love and kindness is all we need.

 

 

Mom!!!!

 Last Chance 

Last Chance 

That has been the name that I have been called for almost 22 years. Elizabeth, Liz, and Bizzy have also been used to get my attention but the one used the most has been Mom and my youngest child is about ready to fly the coop and head South to continue his education.

Last night hit me hard! He went to the Prom. There he was dressed in his finest clothing and looked absolutely smashing. Henry was all grown up. Mom wasn’t really needed except to approve of the tie and cummerbund. I ordered the flowers but beyond that as he said to me, “Mom, I got this.”

I am beyond proud of him because he has worked hard. But, I am feeling so crazy!!!! I am sad and feeling lost! Now what?

I have had jobs and I still have a career but nothing I do on a daily basis brings me as much joy as being a Mom.

When my kids were little it was physically hard, three born in 3 ½ years! Getting them from here to there was tough.

Then I got divorced and sober!

Being a Mom is a job that I had never had before. It came with challenges and major learning curves.

For example, how do you deal with a teacher? Especially one who was concerned that my child may have a brain tumor because he couldn’t sit still for a half hour?  Or hearing your daughter complain that she has to row on a beautiful river for her exercise? Or finding out my child has a rare, non-life-threatening disease? How was I supposed to react to that? I figured it out!

Was it hard or easy? Those adjectives can’t be used to describe these feelings. In fact, my solution to the problems were figured out as I went along. I did the very best I could.

So as a Mom, I have had to be saleswomen, a handy-woman, a life coach, a therapist, a counselor, a manager, a professional short order cook and a laundress, to name a few titles!

At times I wished for the time to go by quicker! I wanted them to be grown up and out of the house and guess what?  That time is here and I don’t like it! I want them to need me because I am lost!!!! I feel sad and empty…. I mean to be fair, I just married a man that I adore and can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with, but I am still crying. Can anyone relate?

All of these things that are going on are good, but it is change and who likes change? Not this big of a change, it is scary!!!! So, I called and found a puppy, that is the answer, right? I am going to get a puppy that doesn’t talk back but listens and loves me unconditionally… my husband doesn’t agree to this grand idea, so for now I am in a holding pattern.

Bottom line is that I am sober and this part of raising my children has passed and on to the next thing…I am scared! As I tell all of my friends, this too will pass. That fear and faith can’t live in the same space.  I have to have faith that my heart will be filled and my days will be filled with a life that I dreamed of…. being happy and content! That is all I want, and it sounds easy but to be completely honest some days are easier than others.

June 13, 2018 is the big day and I’ll be back next week to let you know how I am doing with all of these feelings of the soon to be empty nester!

Update!

Today is my four-month wedding anniversary and it has been four months since I sent out a newsletter! I guess this means that married life is going well!

To be honest life has been crazy with helping my youngest get into college and my daughter falling and breaking her arm. I have been too busy to write. But, I committed to doing this today! I miss writing and reaching out to my peeps.

I’m back! I am not going to promise weekly blogs until Henry graduates but as often as I can I will reach out.

We had a fabulous wedding and honeymoon and came home and got started on some home projects. Why do we cause unnecessary stress in our lives? I don’t know but we do! Henry got into his second choice in colleges and was waitlisted with his first. Hadley was skateboarding (don’t ask me why LOL) and fell off of the board which resulted in her front tooth breaking and her right arm. Never a dull moment.

I’m no longer working with Zero to 5ive which I miss because they are so awesome! I am on my own no more training wheels. Big girl now!

What is going on that is exciting?

I have been following a friend that has been trying to get sober for a couple of years now and monthly I am interviewing her for my podcast and here is a clip of her last interview. She celebrated four months last week! Louise is an example that we can quit drinking one day at time. Here is the clip to our latest conversation:

Louise 4 Months Clean  http://busylivingsober.com/podcasts/2018/4/30/louise-4-months-clean

On top of Busy Living Sober, I also started Whole 30 a week ago. Which brings me to what I really want to talk about. Someone reached out to me and asked, “How do you not drink and then add Whole 30?  (where you can’t have dairy, gluten or sugar) “my answer like most of my answers is One Day at a Time.

24 hours in one day and let’s break it down, shall we. We are up for 16 hours (we should sleep at least 8 hours a night, in fact Deepak Chopra claims that sleep is the number one thing we need to live a long and prosperous life) in that 16 hours you spend time eating, watching TV, working, socializing, exercising, shopping and so on. My point is that if you make yourself and your desires a priority you can do anything!

Falling in love with yourself is number one! No more putting other thoughts about you into your head. It is time to look in the mirror and take ownership of your own body and mind. Now if you medically need medication or you need to see a doctor to help you love yourself, please do. I am not saying that this is an easy task falling in love with yourself, but it is possible.

“How?”, you may ask. I reach out for help! This did not come naturally. I had to endure enough pain and sadness that I couldn’t go on, I was desperate. I needed HELP!

It was a very painful, crazy notion coming from a woman who thought she could handle life and all that comes with it alone. The truth was that I couldn’t handle life! I need help.

Today, the first thing I do when starting anything is I look for a partner, sponsor, friend that I can go to and bounce my ideas off of. Someone that will listen and not judge me! A real friend! Let’s face it 4 eyes and 2 brains are better than one! Find someone!

When I decided that I wanted to do Whole 30 I put it out there, on Facebook, to see who wanted to do it with me and a couple of friends responded that they were interested and now when I’m feeling like I really want a Twix bar or and ice cream cone I go and tell the group. The point is I am not doing this alone.

Get with someone and don’t isolate!

Try this and let me know how it works for you.

I have also included last week’s Mocktail video and Whole 30 delicious recipe.

Tangy Tonic- Whole 30  http://busylivingsober.com/blog/2018/4/27/tangy-tonic-whole-30

Enjoy and please reach out with any requests or questions. Remember that you are worth it!

Keep getting Busy Living Sober

XO

Bizzy

Planning a Sober Wedding

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8 days till I say, “I do!” and did I forget to mention that it is 3 days till Christmas?! As you can imagine, emotions galore are running through my head! My saving grace has been the ability at certain times to just let go. It is all going to be alright! Do any of you remember the scene from Home for the Holidays when Holly Hunter’s character is dealing with family for the holidays and her daughter (Claire Danes) reminds her just to float? Let’s say I have been floating!

This is not my first rodeo when it comes to Christmas or when it comes to planning a wedding. The major difference is that this time around, I am going to be sober and so is my fiancé. A friend of mine said, “this is like your first marriage because you will be completely present.” –and she’s right. I am so excited because every detail has been made with a clear head! The emotions that I wished would disappear are all present this time around and guess what – that is okay today; in fact it is a gift!

My fiancé and I are having a sober wedding. My first wedding was at 10am and people that attended are still talking about it 23 years later! It was a big drinking occasion. It is funny in a sense and a little humiliating in another. I don’t even really remember my first wedding. I didn’t pre-game at 8am but at the reception I drank for sure. All I remember is getting to our destination for our honeymoon and thinking to myself, “what just happened?” and then drinking my way through our vacation celebration. Looking back, I have no regrets because I didn’t know anything different. But today I do!

Today, being present and aware can be freighting at times and, to be perfectly honest, uncomfortable. What is my number one feeling? The fear of other’s judgement. How are the guests that do drink alcohol going to feel about the fact that there won’t be any at our wedding? So many details go into a wedding and is everything going to be okay? Is everyone going to have a good time? That is what I worry about the most: is everyone going to walk away from our big day saying that it was memorable and fun? I want everyone to have fun and I also want people to know that it is possible without alcohol.

We are going to have some of our favorite mocktail recipes at the event and they will be served in pretty glasses and who knows, maybe there will be an aphrodisiac effect? The fact that the drinks are served in a certain glass will give guests the same effect as alcohol. It will help them relax and let them feel comfortable enough to let down their personal guard and open up. In the end, I hope that people can enjoy an event with or without the booze because that is what alcohol did for me. It made me relax but because of my alcoholism, I could never have just one!

I will let everyone know after how the whole sober wedding goes and let you know how every detail came off (let’s hope without a hitch)!

Happy Holidays and Keep get Busy Living Sober!

"it's easy to be selfish when you're battling addiction"

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Once you realize that drinking is causing problems in your life and you want to make a change, it can be challenging… especially around the holidays. Thanksgiving marks the beginning of an intense (but fun) festive season. So many people are out and about getting everything ready for their big celebrations, running around and making lists! Sometimes we forget that the most important thing to prepare for is your mental health!

So, what is your plan? How are you going to deal with your family or friends that know the right buttons to push to knock you off your beam? Planning is crucial for people who have problems with substance abuse disorder, especially around this time of year because fortunately or unfortunately, if you don’t have a plan you can very easily get off track and revert back to your destructive ways.

My recommendations for a sober holiday season are easy:

1.     Have your own means of transportation. Whether that means having a car on hand or money in your pocket to take an Uber or public transportation!

2.     What is your story of why you are leaving? “I have to run, a friend just reached out that needs me.” Or “I am letting my neighbor’s dog out,” “I promised my neighbor I would feed their pet.” You want the reason to sound legitimate and, most importantly, you want it to be about you and not about the host of the occasion.

3.     Set a boundary for yourself. If you get to the party and start to feel badly, leave! Don’t let anyone talk you into something that isn’t good for you.

4.     Make other plans! If it is too much to go to the event in the first place, I recommend going to the movies, the gym or shopping. You don’t have to spend money to walk around the mall and look in the windows – and believe me, it can be a great distraction!

5.     Make sure that you feel okay. This decision you made is about you and no one else!

6.     Prayer works! Even if your prayer is one word: “Help!” or “Please!”

7.     Make a gratitude list before you get out of bed and before you go to sleep! It takes no time to write and it can be three things or ten! There are no real rules here.

8.     Reserve judgement! No judging allowed…acceptance is key! You can change some things but most of the time, all you can change is you.

9.     Celebrate yourself. Each day you don’t use is HUGE!!!! You are a winner!

10.  Love you!

Take it easy and most importantly, remember this is just one day!

#busylivingsober

#sobernotashamed

 

 

“A Mother’s Back to School Blues”

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I am traveling home after dropping my oldest at college for his junior year, with my daughter already situated and starting her sophomore year. My youngest, a rising senior in high school, is sitting a row ahead of me and to the right. It seems like miles and miles away even though it can’t be more than 10 feet (airplanes today have tight seating!). My heart is sad, but at the same time, I am beyond grateful that I had the opportunity to raise these three amazing human beings. Being a Mom is so hard, rewarding, humbling and emotional. In fact, most times I feel like a complete lunatic with all the erratic emotions that come along with motherhood. 
 
To say I am excited for all three of my children would be an understatement – I am over the moon! Two of them are at universities and the youngest is six months away from finding out where he will be starting the next leg on his educational journey. Despite these amazing milestones in life, I still find myself feeling melancholy and lost.
 
When my three children were born, I was married to a man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. Unfortunately, we both have the disease of addiction and, like a lot of relationships with addicts, the marriage ended 14 years ago when my children were very young. They were just 7, 6 and 4 years old and needed me, so I was there for them. My number one priority was getting them to the finish line: graduation from high school without any major calamities along the way.
 
As any mother or guardian knows, high school years are trying times and the journey was challenging to say the least. Any or all my three of my children could have the disease of addiction but I won't know – or better yet they won't know – until they know. Yes, there is the option to get genetic testing but I believe it’s something's that needs to happen organically.
 
All three of my children have experimented with alcohol, but are they addicts? I don't know and to be completely honest, I don't want to be the judge. Judging whether someone as an addict is not my job, even if we’re talking about my own children. I’ll leave that call up to the individuals and the doctors.
 
Either way, raising children today where drugs and alcohol are so prevalent made my job as single mom that much harder! This was my choice and I take full responsibility. I have first-hand experience in learning what alcohol and drugs can do to a family, so I did everything power to ensure that the traits and characteristics I experienced in my childhood didn't happen to my children. In the end, my children/young adults refer to me as a “Helicopter Mom” … I'll take it!
 
While going through hard times when my children were younger, I found myself wishing the time away. I wanted to be in the future rather than live through tough and uncomfortable situations. I remember saying, “I just can't wait till they are all launched and on their way.” Well, here I am. They are 6 months away from being “launched” and I don't wish to be in the future anymore. In fact, I want time to slow down. I want them to need me again! 
 
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the job I did raising these children resulted in me having strong, independent individuals that need their Mom to bounce ideas off but they no longer need me daily to hold their hand and show them the way… because I did that. I was there. I was present for them and I can honestly and humbly say I am a good Mom who did the very best I could, given the circumstances, and I wouldn't change a thing. 
 
As I mentioned before, being a Mom is a hard and challenging role and one that I will never say I regretted.
 
To all those Moms out there feeling the way I am, know you are not alone! The back-to-school commercials do not bring up excitement like they did when my children were young. Instead, they now evoke nostalgia and hope that time would just slow down a little.
 
Enjoy your time. Don't wish it away. The present moment is exactly where you’re supposed to be – even when you want to just run away.


#sobernotashamed
#busylivingsober
www.busylivingsober.com 

Stress Relief is Not Synonymous with Substance Abuse

My son Henry

Stress – We all feel it! Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.

We all can feel the effects of stress and I am no exception. When I’m stressed, it presents itself as pain in my shoulders and back. It’s a nagging, persistent and, at times, debilitating. I want it to go away but how do I fix it?

When drinking was a daily part of my life, a nice glass of wine or a cold drink was the perfect remedy for my aches and pains. But after a while, I came to the realization that that remedy did more damage than good. Alcohol and my body make up do not mix well. The drink may have eliminated my stress but unfortunately, my DNA made me feel a lack of control. One drink was never enough and that one drink would turn into multiple drinks or bottles of wine. The drinking only exacerbated my stress and created larger problems! The stress now was self-afflicted.

My shoulders and neck pain became depression and self-doubt; a physical ailment became an emotional one. Now, I was not only in physical pain but my emotions were running on overload. Most of those emotions were negative, which in turn made me unhappy and unproductive. All I could do was wallow in self-pity.

How did I get out of it?

For one I realized that the answer to relive my stress was NOT to pick up a drink.

Here are some tools that have worked for me:

·      Listen to some music and get lost in the lyrics or rhythm

·      Go for a walk outside

·      Call a friend and talk about what I am feeling and let it go

·      Write in my journal

·      Take time to meditate. There are many different online tools and apps that I like that help me meditate. Right now, I turn to the app “Insight timer” as a tool for my meditation. It is free and has many different guided meditations, as well as a timer if you just want to sit quietly.

Bottom line is that drinking is not the only solution to major stressors in life and most of the time, it leads to significant problems. So take some time to try the tools I suggested and remember that feelings are not facts!

 

 

Happy Memorial Day

The Beach.....ahhhhhh

Memorial Day was started in 1868 by General Logan to celebrate the sacrifices of the Civil War.  On that day, participants decorated the graves of more than 20,000 solders that fought for the Union and the Confederacy. After World War I, the day became even more inclusive and celebrated all of those who fought in America’s wars. In 1971, it was declared a national holiday to be acknowledged and celebrated by Americans the last Monday in May.

Today, Memorial Day is too often seen as a celebration of the start of summer and not recognized for what it should be: a celebration of American heroes.

When General Logan founded this holiday, he did not discriminate between sides. Instead, he decided that all soldiers deserved respect and acknowledgment for their sacrifices in the Civil War, regardless of whether they were from the North or the South! Citizens went and decorated men’s graves no matter where they were from or what their beliefs were. It was a bi-partisan day.

Now can you imagine this today? People supporting each other with no judgement or criticism, even if their beliefs are totally different. It seems idealistic and almost fairytale-like in today’s negative climate. I know I am not alone when I say that the current state of the word is negative and downright sad.

After hearing what happened in Manchester, England earlier this week, I am distraught by how we can’t even go to a concert to hear our favorite music without the fear that it could possibly be the last day of our life.

There is too much hate and disrespect today.

When I decided to get sober almost 11 years ago, I was judgmental and harsh towards others who didn’t share the same beliefs as me. But when I joined a 12-step group, those judgments and beliefs began to dissolve. Why you may ask? Because in my 12-step meetings, it doesn’t matter what religion you are, how much money you have, where you live, the color of your skin – none of that matters. People come together to help and love one another.

In 12- step meetings, I have learned that love is all that really matters. Making sure that others are there for one another to help each other get through another day without having to medicate themselves. People lend a hand and their hearts to help regardless of their beliefs. It fosters an environment of non-judgmental people that will love you and support you until you learn to love yourself.

With Memorial Day right around the corner, maybe we need to learn a lesson from General Logan and celebrate everyone – be open and loving even if we aren’t in agreement with someone’s political or religious beliefs. It is time to love and respect our neighbor and be kind no matter what! I can tell you that after watching a young girl’s parents in England being interviewed on CNN yesterday, it did not matter what or who they were or what they believed. They were in deep pain because they couldn’t find their daughter. We can all relate to the pain of losing someone and my heart cried for those parents because bottom line, I am a human being with a heart.

Maybe this weekend that celebrates our fallen heroes and marks the start of the summer can also be a time where we love one another and let everyone be who they want to be. At the end of the day does it really feel good to judge another?

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!