CGjenny

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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CGjenny

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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CGjenny

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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CGjenny

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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CGjenny

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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CGjenny

How to ditch alcohol forever


(the way that I did it)

*Disclaimer: As I’ve stated here before, my road to sobriety was different from most. I didn’t require the assistance of a 12-step program, rehab and only minimal counseling. If you feel as though you can’t stop drinking on your own, please seek help promptly! 

When I decided to stop drinking, I just did it. I drank too much on a Sunday afternoon and fell asleep about dinnertime, leaving my husband to take on the feeding of the kids/bathing/bedtime routine. I woke up later that night, embarrassed at what I’d let happen. I went to a board meeting at my kids’ church preschool the following morning hungover and vowed right then and there. Enough. I can’t keep up with this habit anymore. That was the Fall of 2010.

If you’ve ever wondered if maybe you need to stop drinking, <as blunt as this sounds> you probably do. A good way to find out is to quit for a little while–and I don’t mean for a day–I mean for an extended amount of time to see how things change in your life. From there you can consider moderating your drinking or maybe you’ll continue to abstain. The trick is to be honest with yourself about your drinking. 

Some of the following tips I followed and some, I wish I’d followed. But all of them have dawned upon me at one time or another over the course of the past 6 years.

Continue reading “How to ditch alcohol forever”

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CGjenny

The Parent Party Scene

There’s something that’s been bothering me and I wanted to discuss it today.

I need to preface this post with a few statements: First of all, this post isn’t written from a  “sour grapes” angle. I’ve had opportunities to jump into this party scene and I’ve politely declined multiple times.

Also, I’m the first to admit it and my life is boring as shit. Sure, there was a time in my life when I went out late, drank a lot, had inappropriate conversations with people and did some things that I really shouldn’t have. BUT, I was also like 24 years old and didn’t have a family or children depending on me at home. I rather love my current lifestyle and, while I’m glad that I had (most of) the experiences that I had in my early 20’s, I wouldn’t go back to that pace of life for anything. ANYTHING. Give me my orthotic slippers, fuzzy pajamas and Bravo TV marathons any day. 

So, here goes…

Continue reading “The Parent Party Scene”

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CGjenny

Drinking at the gym

…and why it makes me angry. 

I joined a Crossfit “box” (that’s what they call a gym in Crossfit lingo) a couple of years ago. I was looking to challenge myself physically a bit more than my classes at the YMCA could provide for me and I wanted to maybe even meet some people; make some friends who were interested in a healthy lifestyle. 

So, I joined a box in my area and showed up for my first class. As the front desk person was giving me a tour, she showed me the refrigerator that was stocked with bottles of water for purchase. I also noticed that the entire lower shelves were stocked with beer. I thought that was odd, but chalked it up to the owner maybe enjoying a cold beer when she was up there doing paperwork or cleaning or whatever. Who am I to judge?

Then, I started getting emails about a special Friday afternoon Crossfit class that ended with a “Happy Hour.” The photos showed up on my Facebook feed of the class participants, still sweaty and dirty from the WOD (workout of the day) doing handstand/kegstand-type of maneuvers, guzzling beer like college students. This rubbed me the wrong way. 

Then, at the holidays, there were several social get togethers both at the gym and at the owner’s home where alcohol was predominantly featured–and I don’t mean a festive glass of wine–I mean jello shots and beer bongs. 

It was very common for my fellow classmates to show up for the Monday morning class hungover, reeking of alcohol from the weekend before, complaining (or bragging?) about how much they’d had to drink over the weekend and commiserating over shared weekend shenanigans with fellow classmates and even coaches. 

All of this really made me angry. 

First of all, I joined a gym to try and engage in a healthy lifestyle. I hoped to surround myself with people who were health conscious and maybe not still drinking like college-age people at my age (40-something). Some of these heavy-drinking classmates were also mothers like me. I knew that I absolutely didn’t want any part of that scene.

Also, I learned that the owner of the gym is a recovering addict herself. I can’t speak to her current sobriety, but she was prominently featured in all of the social media photos cheering on the shot-taking and jokingly holding the beer bong for other gym members at the Friday Happy Hour class. 

Long story, short: Due to a handful of factors, I canceled my membership to this gym. I’m not going to lie–the college student-like approach to drinking and socializing was a big factor, as was the owner’s laissez faire attitude about the drinking habits of the other gym members.

All of the drinking that was going on at the gym and with other gym members didn’t trigger me or make me want to drink–quite the contrary–but I did feel excluded. I had hoped to make a few connections at this gym, but it became clear to me that if you didn’t go out and drink with everyone else, you weren’t “part of the club” and this quickly became a “club” that I didn’t care to be a part of.

From what I see though, my experience at this “box” isn’t necessarily an isolated scenario. I see more and more gyms luring members with promises of social gatherings at local breweries and wine tastings and happy hour classes that end with drinks. I mean, there’s even a Wine Workout that someone came up with. I’m sorry, but…WHAT?

Image: www.greatideas.people.com

 

I’m not judging people who can drink socially but I’d really like to see a gym or a fitness professional NOT advocate drinking. Just for once. Not only is drinking your calories not a good idea if you’re trying to lose weight, but it’s also a dangerous habit to introduce to your members. 

Can we really not do anything without alcohol? Can’t we go for a few days a week without drinking alcohol, or is that unfathomable? 

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CGjenny

Why “moderating” my drinking didn’t work for me


Years ago, when I realized that I needed to make a change in my drinking habits, I decided that I’d simply “moderate” my drinking. I’d make a plan and have “x” amount of drinks per week/day/event. This sounded way more doable than flat-out quitting entirely.

So, the first few weeks, it worked brilliantly. I held myself to that one glass of wine with dinner. Then, in the coming weeks, when confronted with the temptation to have more than my allotment, I bent the rules…just a smidgen.

Then, the next event or dinner out, the rules bent even further.

The next thing I knew, I wasn’t “moderating” my drinking at all. I was right back where I started.

You see, my brain is funny like that. It’s a master at talking me out of or into things. Here’s how the dialog went in my head when I was trying to moderate:

Jenny: “I’m only having 2 glasses of wine at the dinner out with friends tonight. That seems like a reasonable amount and won’t get me into too much trouble.”

Brain: “Absolutely! 2 glasses is the perfect amount! Let’s do this!”

Jenny (over dinner): “I’m having a great time! We’re enjoying a leisurely meal with good friends. Everyone else is finishing up their second drink too and the main courses haven’t even arrived yet. What should I do? I really want another drink…”

Brain: “You know, this IS a special circumstance. I mean, how often do you get to have dinner with these good friends? And, you got a babysitter, so you’re foot-loose and fancy-free tonight. I wonder if just 1 more drink wouldn’t hurt?”

The next thing I know, I’m in a pickle.

My brain talked me out of moderating so many times. It became exhausting trying to keep up with the rules that I’d established beforehand for my drinking and then keeping up with the change-on-the-fly rules that I had as the evening progressed. Then, after that evening was over, I had to reevaluate my whole system for moderating. It was way too much work and spent too much of my mental energy.

image courtesy of intherooms.com

That’s when I decided that I needed to abstain all together.

Abstaining completely took away all of that extra psychic baggage that I was carrying around, constantly dividing and multiplying in my head; negotiating and re-negotiating all night. Abstaining from alcohol set me free and made my decisions easier. It allowed me to be present. It took the guesswork out of drinking and eliminated those inner negotiations that made me crazy.

Moderating works for many people. It’s a good place to start if you’re thinking about curbing your drinking. It helps you to step back and take a look at your drinking habits. From there, you can determine if you can continue moderating or if you need to abstain entirely.

I wish I could have made moderation work for me–I really do–but in the end, I needed a finite rule to my drinking. I needed to stop completely. And this is what worked for me.

Have you ever tried (successfully or unsuccessfully) to moderate your drinking?  

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CGjenny

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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