Mexico 2004

Acting “as if”

Recently, Jack decided to list the ways that he and I alike. This surprised me because, more often than not now, he’s rolling his eyes at me, so the fact that he wanted to, not only acknowledge the ways that we’re similar, but list them, made me swell with pride. Here’s what we came up with:

  1. We’re both left-handed
  2. We both have light-colored eyes
  3. We both choose Sour Patch Kids over M&M’s at the movies
  4. We both are early birds
  5. Neither one of us really enjoys rollercoasters

And then, I added, “and we’re both shy.” As soon as I said that, Jack looked at me like I had garlic growing out of my ear.

I think it’s well-documented that both Jack and I are introverts, but I don’t think that Jack has ever thought of me as an introvert. In fact, the day that we were coming up with this list, was the same day that we had more parties to attend than I care to discuss right now (introvert hangover still in progress) and he’d seen me (seemingly) effortlessly glide around all of the parties, talking with people, laughing–appearing, by all accounts the well-adjusted, party-loving extrovert.

When he looked at me funny when I told him that I am shy, I quickly added, “But I’m really good at pretending NOT to be shy.” At that moment, he got really still and quiet and I saw the proverbial “lightbulb” go off above his head.

I don’t think that it had ever occurred to him that he could act “as if” he wasn’t shy.

Acting “as if” is a fancy cognitive psychology idea that really just translates as “fake it ’til you make it.” In other words, what I explained to Jack that day was that yes, I am very shy, but that I can also pretend that i’m not shy when I need to–like at parties. Honestly, that’s probably what often causes this “introvert hangover” that I feel after being social, but it also gets me through a situation and, more often than not, I end up enjoying myself.

The thing that’s really cool about acting ‘as if” is that it applies in most areas of life: I think at every job I’ve ever started, I’ve acted “as if” for the first few weeks. Every time I’ve joined a new gym, I’ve tried my best to act “as if” and walk around like I know where I’m going, know how the machines work know what the classes are all about.

It also works in sobriety. Those first couple of years, I did a lot of acting “as if”–acting as if I WASN’T miserable and searching for a way to figure out who I was. I did my best to act like a secure and sober person and guess what? I turned into that person. How cool is that?

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Mexico 2004

A letter

(Alternate title: May the 4th be with me)

I’m not going to lie: April was a doozy for me.

My creativity was nonexistent. My attitude was piss-poor and my self-doubt and lack of confidence ruled my every move. It was a strange month.

I found out, at the end of April, that Mercury had been in retrograde, so that’s what I’m attributing all of this to. Obviously. Duh.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I also had a few intensely-social weekends in April. There were a couple of themes that presented themselves those weekends and I’m planning to write at length about them in the coming weeks. Basically, you take introvertedness + socializing + lack of motivation x self doubt (cubed)=ick.

(I’m bad at math, so if that equation doesn’t add up, figure it out yourself)

Then, I attended a Women’s Leadership Conference last week that turned it all around.

That’s me in the top with lemons on it. Because, of course lemons…that’s how my brain works.

 

I begrudgingly went–thinking of 75 other things that I needed or wanted to do that day–but instead, I came home a new person. I wrote one of the organizers a letter, because I wanted to let someone know how much I was moved by it. Here’s an excerpt from that letter:

Initially, I was interested in attending the summit only because one of my favorite authors, Katherine Center would be speaking. When I saw that the summit was a “leadership” summit, my gut reaction was, “Leadership? I’m not a leader…I’m JUST a mom.” But, I decided to sign up anyway–even thinking that I might just go hear Center speak and then duck out early to get back home to my responsibilities.

 

Well, I had hardly gotten in the front door at Trinity University Friday morning, before I was greeted warmly by Karen Love and Leisa Holland-Nelson. Their genuine interest in who I was and what had brought me to the summit stopped me in my tracks. Next, Katherine Center approached me and introduced herself. To say that I was gobsmacked by the welcome that I received would be an understatement.

 

Perhaps it goes without saying that I stayed for the entire day and from the first presentation until the last, I felt engaged, inspired and challenged to think outside of the “box” that I’ve been operating within. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I fought back tears several times during the day as I realized that I was witnessing women empowering one another, valuing each other’s opinions and NOT ONCE was I asked about my children (which is expected and par for the course when you’re a mom). Instead, I was asked about who I was and what I was passionate about. It was a thrilling, restorative experience for me and I immediately wished that I’d recruited more friends and neighbors to join me.

 

I know you’re busy and I’m sorry if this is simply one more email in your inbox that you have to contend with, but I felt like you should know how much the summit meant to me and how much it has inspired me to do better in my daily life and pursue some of the ideas that I’ve been “marinating on” for awhile. I hope to attend again in the future and would also be honored if I could play a role in any future leadership summits that you are a part of.

 

Please let me know if there are any opportunities for “just moms,” such as myself to participate. I’m a freelance writer who is working to spearhead a growing “sober mom” movement, offering support for women who are finding themselves self-medicating through the perils of parenthood and looking for healthier ways to cope with the feelings of isolation and self-doubt that are so prevalent in motherhood.

I received a lovely response back from the organizer, who sounded as if she had been disappointed in the poor turn-out for the summit. I hope that my letter lifted her up and changed her perception of how the summit was received.

All of this to say: Going forward, you’ll notice a shift in this blog. I won’t be posting as often, but when I do, I want it to only be heart-felt and authentic. I won’t be doing Friday Favorites every week, but instead, holding off and doing a Favorites post when I have something special to tell you about. (Do you know how hard it is to come up with things that are my “favorites” on a weekly basis? Especially in that God-awful month of April when, really and truly, NOTHING felt like my favorite, as I wallowed in self-pity and doubt?) 

Also, I’d really appreciate hearing from you about what you’d like to see more of on the blog. I have oodles of more alcohol/sobriety posts in my head, as well as an endless supply of posts about being an introvert (naval-gazing at its best). Let me hear from you in the comments, via email (jenny@introvertsguidetosobriety.com) or find me on social media and let’s visit about things.

Thanks for hanging in there during my April of doom…I missed you!

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Mexico 2004

Life lately

April is a busy month for us. We’re up to our eyeballs in kid activities and busy weekends away. I have a lot going on…what about you?

First things first though:

I wrote an original piece for Red Tricycle about why we discuss our finances with our kids. You can read it HERE. It’s a topic that I feel passionate about because I’ve seen how my kids have embraced being a part of these discussions and how it’s changed their view of money. I’m hopeful that by raising them with an understanding of how money really works, they’ll grow into adults who are good money managers.

I would really love it if you passed the article along if you think it’s relevant to your life.

Next up:

Jack is playing soccer. This is the first time he’s participated in a team sport and it’s really fun to see him out there, doing his best and playing as a team.

And Anna’s art was featured at a district-wide art show.  Her piece is entitled: “Jane Goodall–The Nutcracker.” Originality is her strong suit.

And the birds have decided to call our yard home again this spring, which I love. Because, let’s face it–I need more creatures who are depending on me to feed them in my life.

Speaking of creatures who depend on me…this one has been loving the spring weather here and lounging outside with me. This photo is noteworthy because I took it the day that I eschewed all of my responsibilities for the day to sit outside, read books, listen to podcasts and enjoy my birds. You can see the laundry baskets and laundry piled on the bed in the room behind Angie. It was a rare day of no responsibility for me and I loved every second of it. I highly recommend trying to find a day like that for yourself every now and then if you can.

So, that’s my life lately…tell me about yours.

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Mexico 2004

Reunion Weekend

I spent the weekend with a group of friends that I haven’t seen in years–some of them as long as 17 years, some of them only a few years–but all of them important to me.

These were people that were my “drinking buddies,” so it was a bit odd to be the sober one. Even odder (more odd?) to see them through sober eyes.

The beauty in this weekend is that we all just picked up right where we left off. Everyone looks the same and acts the same (not sure why that part surprises me) and there were times during the weekend that I had to remind myself that I hadn’t teleported back to 2000.

We all left each other today, with teary promises not to let time get the best of us again–not to let 17 more years come and go before we saw one another again. Hard to say if we’ll be true to all of our words, but I know that I have a renewed sense of love and friendship after this weekend. It was balm for my soul.

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Mexico 2004

Feeling excluded

Feeling excluded was a common emotion that I experienced when I first stopped drinking.

Now, let’s be clear: It certainly wasn’t anything anyone did on purpose. But it was the nature of the social scene. When people get together–specifically moms of young children–drinking is the main event. When I stopped drinking, I struggled to find things to do socially that wouldn’t make me feel uncomfortable. But it also made me very aware of how much alcohol plays into social events.

Continue reading “Feeling excluded”

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Mexico 2004

What it’s like being an introvert

I have people ask me often “how do you know that you’re an introvert?” I addressed that in THIS post, but I thought I’d talk a bit more today about what it’s like being an introvert–some of it might surprise you!

Believe it or not–I enjoy being social:

If you met me, you might find me to be rather social. I enjoy talking with people and can carry on a conversation like a champ. In fact, I can even be energized by good social interactions. However, BAD social interactions set me back. Certain personality types turn me off to a degree that I have trouble recovering and often close up my “shell” in the presence of those types of people. One step forward, two back.

I need alone time, but not TOO much:

I’ve started trying to save Mondays just for myself. If possible, I don’t make appointments or commitments on Mondays, so that I can spend some good time to myself, writing or just doing things around the house. But, I don’t think that I could do this for more than 1 day in a row. I’d be lonely if I had to spend multiple days without interacting. I know….I’m a mystery even to myself.

I really enjoy going out for coffee or lunch with friends:

Granted, two hours before I’m due to meet up, faced with changing out of my beloved jammies and putting on (gasp!) real clothes, I often consider canceling, but once I’m committed to going, I am typically excited to talk and socialize with friends over coffee or lunch. Some of my most invigorating days have been spent having long conversations with friends over lunch.

Truth

So, that’s my introverted life in a nutshell. I don’t believe that anyone is 100% on either end of the introvert/extrovert spectrum all of the time but I’m definitely more introverted than extroverted most of the time.

What about you? Are you more of an introvert or more of an extrovert? 

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Mexico 2004

Making friends when you’re a teetotaler

I’ve been asked many times how I make new friends as a woman (specifically a mother) who doesn’t drink.

On the surface, this might sound like a stupid question to someone who doesn’t think much about alcohol. But, in our culture of “Mommy Juice,” and PTA meetings that end with tequila shots at the taco joint next to the school, it’s a formidable question.

The shorts answer is that…well, it is difficult–I’m not going to sugar coat it.

Part of this is likely due to my introverted personality. I would much rather be a fly on the wall at a party than be actively moving about the room visiting and getting to know people.

Also, if someone is part of a recovery community, they’ve got a built-in safety net of people to socialize with.

I didn’t have this at my disposal.

When I was a drinker, meeting people was a bit easier because alcohol allowed me to be more open and friendly. I took more chances and I didn’t quietly observe the room quite as much as I do sober. I could also tolerate certain personality types when I was drinking that I typically couldn’t have tolerated sober.

When I stopped drinking, I had a wonderful home-base of lady friends. When I told them that I was going to stop drinking, they were supportive but also largely non pulsed, which is just what i needed at the time. It was no big deal and they loved me regardless of my drinking habits.

Then, we moved away from my friends and I was faced with making all new friends.

So, I started mixing and mingling with people in our new community. When my drinking status came up in conversation, I found that it was usually met with 3 possible reactions:

Oh, okay…that’s cool.

(Then I’d be watched closely to see if I exhibited any overtly religious behaviors, which might explain my teetotaling. Spoiler: If you’re around me for more than about 15 min and hear my potty mouth, you’ll quickly learn that I’m not fanatically religious)

Oh, wow! That’s so interesting! I want to hear more!

I love this response, because, it not only shows that the person cares about who I am and getting to know me better, but it also gives me an opportunity to share a bit of my story with others who might benefit from hearing it.

Oh. My. God. Are you kidding me? I could NEVER give up my wine! You’re crazy.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but this is my least-favorite response and generally lets me know pretty early on that: a. this person and I aren’t going to jive and b. this person might have a bit of an issue with alcohol herself.

I have an acquaintance who still–every time she introduces me to others–says this, “This is Jenny. She doesn’t drink!“. This can be at any setting at all, be it a place where that explanation is necessary (say, at a winery tour) or absolutely not necessary (at a funeral). She’s definitely one of those people who blurts things out all the time and her mouth often gets her into trouble, but I find it so telling that that’s the thing that she chooses to tell people about me. Not, “This is Jenny. She’s the mother of 2 kids.” Or even, “This is Jenny. She has 4 cats, a dog and a fish.” Nope. Every time, it’s, “This is Jenny. She doesn’t drink…not even wine! Can you believe that? I could NEVER give up my wine.”

There have been instances when I’ve met someone–a potential friend–and when they find out that I don’t drink, their face falls and I notice that resigned, “Oh, and I really LIKED her” look go across her face. It makes me sad but I also know that I USED TO BE that person too. In my drinking days, when I met someone who didn’t drink I’d often mentally cross them off of my list of potential friends. “Clearly, we have nothing in common.” I feared judgement from non-drinkers. I assumed that anyone who didn’t drink wasn’t my people. So, I totally understand how people feel when they meet me.

And, all is not lost when first meetings don’t go well. Often, once someone gets to know me and sees that, in addition to being sober, I’m also funny, self-deprecating  and wildly inappropriate, they forget that we differ in our drinking habits and they accept me anyway. That’s really all that I typically hope for.

I also work hard (perhaps harder than I should) so that my friends feel comfortable drinking around me. The thing is, just because I can’t drink doesn’t mean that they can’t. I’m not here to judge but I am here to be an example of what a sober woman looks like.

If you’re a teetotaler, have you found it difficult to make friends? 

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Mexico 2004

Boundaries

With Christmas knocking at our door, our boundaries are about to be stretched and compromised. Families draw near and with them, drama. You might feel pulled in 80 different directions. You might desperately need to “actively introvert.” You might feel your sobriety questioned, marginalized or made fun of. It’s a difficult time indeed.

I’m a people-pleaser by nature so protecting my boundaries is something that I constantly struggle with and probably constantly fail at. 

Image courtesy of: http://planningwithkids.com/2015/05/01/monthly-review-setting-boundaries/

 

So many of us place our self-worth in the hands of other people’s opinions and expectations for us. The Holidays magnify this, as we’re put in the same room with our biggest fans and our toughest critics (sometimes all wrapped up in the same person). 

Remember your boundaries this Holiday season:

~Write them down

~Make them your mantra and repeat multiple times a day

~Honor and protect your boundaries

~Don’t worry about disappointing others 

The fact of the matter is that you WILL disappoint people. All the time. Probably everyday. But the person who you’ve got to do the best by is yourself. 

What boundaries are you guarding with your life this Holiday season?

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Mexico 2004

Surviving Holiday parties sober

Full disclosure: I’ve been sober for 6 years and Holiday parties are still difficult for me.

We went to a Holiday party last night and, one would think that after 6 years of doing this sobriety-thing, I’d have it down to a science. But, I still struggle. Today, I’m holed up at home, rehashing the awkward social exchanges and wondering how people are feeling this morning. I had a great time…don’t get me wrong. We have a wonderful group of neighbors and I got to visit with many of them last night. I also was tested by a few of my least-favorite neighbors being in attendance last night. These are all things that, in my past life, would’ve sent me directly for the nearest bottle of wine. Holiday parties are a unique struggle for me. I love the idea of them, but there’s no other time during the year that I miss drinking more.

Part of it is due to me being an introvert and part of it is everyone around me drinking with wild abandon–just like I used to. But, over the years, I’ve come up with a few tried and true tricks that help me to navigate a Holiday party sober. Today, I’m sharing these tips with you.

Continue reading “Surviving Holiday parties sober”

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Mexico 2004

A sober holiday–post mortem

This was my 6th sober Thanksgiving and I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t moments that I wished that I still drank. 

For some reason, (ok, mainly hormones, I think) I was extra maudlin this year. I got weepy when I pulled out my grandmother’s dressing recipe on Wednesday. Seeing her handwriting and hearing her words and manner of speaking come back to life on that recipe card felt like a sucker-punch and I missed her and my grandfather so much. Thanksgiving was always spent with them. It was never fancy–paper plates, “cheese dip” in the crockpot for snacking on and football on the tv, but it is some of my very best memories. When I look at my kids and think about how much my grandparents would’ve enjoyed them, I get so sad. 

Nanny's Dressing recipe

In the midst of all of this self-pity, I went outside while the dressing was cooking to get some fresh air and cry a little without my kids seeing. As I sat on the deck, thinking about my grandparents, a pair of cardinals–a male and female–flitted down to my birdfeeder, right next to me. If you know anything about what cardinals symbolize, you’ll understand why this comforted me.

cardinal
Image courtesy of www.truthfollower.com

 

Several times, on Thanksgiving day, as everyone around me popped open a bottle of celebratory wine, or when someone nuzzled a toasty glass of bourbon by the firepit–those times, it hit me. I wanted to feel that ritual. I missed that feeling of having something special on a special day. But, then I have to remind myself that, the way that I abused alcohol, the lines blurred between “special” and “normal day.” I was an expert at justifying and turning a normal day into a reason to make it special (i.e. to drink). 

But, alas, as with every other day of the year, I stuck with my sparkling water and counted my blessings–sobriety and the bullet that I dodged by giving up alcohol being first and foremost. 

On Friday, Kevin and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary with dinner out. We decided to have dessert at a little bakery down the street after we left the restaurant. Unfortunately, our favorite little bakery was closed already, so we ventured onward to a small, local coffee shop, located right in the middle of town square. 

As we sat in the chilly air with our steaming hot cappuccinos in hand, looking out over the beautifully lit courthouse and gazebo–laughing at how drinking coffee at 8pm isn’t a good idea for us “wild and crazy” folks, I counted my blessings again. 

16thanniversary

Kevin has had every reason not to stick around during my not-so-sober days and then, my early days of sobriety were no walk in the park either. I took him for granted and spent too much time quietly seething that he wasn’t being supportive enough (more about that HERE). I feel like I’m in a better place now to ask for what I need, when I need it, and try to give him the support that he needs as well. 

All in all though, it’s been a relatively easy 16 years, I have to say. I can only hope for more of the same for the future. 

cheers-jenny

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