burnout work

Is It Burnout?

I go through this period at work every quarter that involves a solid three weeks of higher than usual stress and an incredible work load. I tried to describe what happens during these cycles to a friend over the weekend, and he said that it sounds like I work the equivalent of two full-time jobs. It’s true. Two full-time high-pressure jobs rolled into one. I’m doing my normal day-to-day work, which can be harrowing on its own, and adding a massive extra task with a very short deadline on top of it.

I am in the middle of that particular phase at the moment and no matter how much I try to take care of myself, the tension can get unbearable. I always head into these things prepared to get daily exercise, meditate, eat well and make sure I sleep, but it never quite works out that way. The stress becomes impossible to escape. My therapist continues to tell me that I can only do what I can do and if it’s not sustainable and I don’t meet the deadlines then I’m not going to die. While I appreciate that sentiment and it does help me to keep my perfectionism in check with a lot of my normal work, it’s not so easy during these heavy deadline periods. As it is, I already always run past the targeted due dates because it’s too much to manage.

I sometimes wonder how little sleep some coworkers get. I know mine suffers during these phases and I don’t even have children to also look after. I watch people with families who are pushing through the heavy workload on top of trying to handle their family situations and I feel for them. We all work long days in the office and typically log back in after finally getting home at night and on the weekends. That’s pretty standard for even a normal work day, but it’s even more necessary when this quarterly cycle comes around. We all spend these times in the office a little grumpier, a lot more tired and generally lacking any positive energy. There are body aches and short fuses to contend with everywhere you turn. No matter how hard we all try, the mental and physical exhaustion run rampant.

When I stop to consider that I spend a minimum of three weeks every quarter going through this, that’s three months of my life each year. Three months of stress levels that are off the charts. Three months with little sleep or much in the way of self-care. Three months where I neglect much of what is important and valuable to me. Maintaining the positive attitude that has come to be expected of me is becoming more of a struggle with each passing quarter. I try to put on the brave face and show everyone that I can handle it, while in reality it’s tearing me up inside. I always come into this cycle wanting to make it better somehow, but by the end of the three weeks even this queen of positivity is left feeling defeated.

None of this seems like something a person should go through. I am incredibly grateful for what I have and for the opportunity that I’ve been given. I like who I work with and I like the good that we do, but the balance is lacking. Burnout is a very real thing. This isn’t something that just impacts my business, it’s the culture that we are surrounded by in this country, in general. Burnout can lead to a whole host of problems. All work and no play makes Jack a very anxious, forgetful, tired, pained, ill, depressed, lonely and addicted boy.

In no way am I blaming my alcohol use on my job, but I am keenly aware that it was how I coped during the high stress cycles. Maybe it’s being sober that makes me hyper-sensitive to the pressures of the job, or maybe it’s getting older and recognizing the value of each moment in this short life. Work is important and certainly necessary, but there must be a way to find joy and balance in it instead of watching the years melt painfully away as the hamster wheel keeps spinning.


sobriety alcohol question

I Couldn’t Possibly Have a Drinking Problem

This past Saturday was filled with activities with our usual group of friends. We had brunch and a movie planned with one couple, followed by dinner with six friends at one of their homes. We’ve had a handful of events with these friends since I quit drinking, but I’ve kept it limited while I was finding my way through early sobriety. Being just 10 weeks in, I’m still awfully new at this, but I looked at my husband on the way to the theater Saturday morning and told him it was the first time I didn’t feel a stitch of anxiety over the day ahead. I wasn’t concerned that I might want to order a mimosa at brunch or have a beer at the movie because I truly didn’t want either of those things. It also dawned on me that I had no reservations about feeling awkward around everyone and I was actually looking forward to getting out. This was a very nice change of pace.

I won’t bore you with every detail, but this feeling stuck with me all day. Even when cocktails were passed around and wine was poured, at no moment did I feel like I was missing anything or have any cravings. I had my trusty club soda and felt just fine. My biggest challenge that night was trying to follow interesting conversations around as the attention span of some started to drop off the more the evening went on. Drinking will tend to do that. There was something different that happened on this particular night, questions came my way about sobriety. This was the first time with these friends since I came out in my 30-day post to everyone about why I chose sobriety and we were also joined by a friend who I haven’t seen at all during this phase. She is probably the most blunt and direct person I know, and I totally appreciated that on Saturday. Finally, someone wasn’t afraid to talk about it and because I was instantly receptive, I think others realized it was okay for them to join the discussion. I even made a point to tell them that it was much easier on me to have the conversations than to have everyone tip-toe around me. If someone wanted to know something, I welcomed the questions.

A question or maybe more of a statement that I continue to hear from people is that they never viewed me as someone with a drinking problem. I keep coming up against that and I always confirm that everyone is different and they couldn’t see my patterns the way that I did. On this particular night, that issue kept coming up. Two of the women pressed me about how I never drank as much as they did and questioned how I could think I have a problem. I did not take offense at all, I can understand why this might bother someone and so I opened up about some of the details that I hadn’t shared in the post that they all read. They are well aware that I’ve been in therapy and I tried to touch on the fact that I finally figured out that I was using alcohol to numb, but that didn’t seem to quite reach them. I then told them about my failed attempts at moderation and that I was developing a pattern of sneaking alcohol in my own home when my husband wasn’t looking. But, it was when I shared that I had put rum in my tea on my way to work a handful of mornings that they seemed to get it. That particular detail had them both staring at me with open mouths and saying “Oh! I would never do that.” I had to brush off the guilt that tried to find its way in after that reaction and instead recognized their responses were perhaps a sense of relief of their own drinking habits.

The evening would continue with multiple drunken interruptions claiming again that I couldn’t possibly have a drinking problem. This was always followed with their recall of the ‘tea thing’ and then the cycle would start all over. It really didn’t bother me so much and while they may not retain full memory of what I had to say, at least the conversations happened. Eventually, however, the repetition grew exhausting and I was ready to leave. When you are the one sober person in the room watching others lose their faculties, at some point the fun wears off and you hit a wall. Even when I wasn’t sober, I usually found that wall before anyone else.

What would be really nice is to have these conversations with my friends when they are not under the influence of alcohol. But I’m not so sure that is going to happen because alcohol is the one constant in this group – at least until now with my sobriety.



One Month Sober

Today is one month. One month free from the shadow that covered my heart and blurred my mind. One month that I’ve been able to take on the world without the devil dancing at my side. One month that I’ve had the courage to stand on my own two feet.

I am brave. I am sober. I am alive.

I celebrate this one month with another gift to myself and of course, it’s a coffee mug. But it’s no ordinary mug. I stumbled across this through Laura McKowen’s site while I didn’t exactly wait for a milestone for this purchase, it did happen to show up last night. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. I suggest you check out Laura’s post about the meaning behind we are the luckiest. It is beautiful and inspiring and it made me recognize that I am grateful to be one of the luckiest.




alcohol problem drinking

Talk About Big

After my struggle with what I guess some might consider a relapse, or maybe it was just a hiccup to an already slow start without alcohol, I’d like to bring you up to speed on the past 24 hours.

After my post yesterday morning, I spent some time on the phone with my husband, E, where I opened up and told him about the hidden swig that I took out of the vodka bottle on Monday when he was in the other room. I confessed the shame that I felt on Tuesday and the obsessive thoughts to drink again that day and all of the struggles that came along with it. I told him that I was starting to wonder if I ever really could drink again or if this needed to be a forever thing. I shared my fears with him that he might find disappointment in me if I decided I had to live a sober life, that he might think I wasn’t fun anymore and that I would hold him back from having a good time with our drinking friends. Besides being nothing short of supportive and reassuring, he did something that I needed to hear. Instead of telling me not to worry about the drinking and that maybe it was just more of a habit that I could work on moderating, he agreed that my acts of hiding my drinking were definitely not good. He confirmed concerns that having alcoholism run in my family (and his) was just one more reason to take this seriously. He then even offered to remove all alcohol from the home if that is what I needed. Let me tell you, there is a lot of alcohol in this house. On top of having a beautiful built-in wine fridge installed two years ago, we have a full home bar. Not just a piece of furniture, but a bar room with shelves of pretty whiskey bottles all in a row, a perfect setting for entertaining. For him to tell me that he would wipe it all out in an instant spoke volumes that he was taking this seriously. Now, I don’t feel the need to do any of that, at least not in my current state, but there is some relief in knowing that this option exists if it should ever come to that.

I next reached out to an old friend who made a Facebook comment on Tuesday about celebrating an anniversary and how it has been the best few years of his life. Now, he has never outright made the statement, but given the fact that he essentially fell off the radar with his drinking friends over the past few years and also left his job in the alcohol industry, I knew what this meant. Something about the timing of his post compelled me to make contact. In my message, I congratulated him on his success and told him I thought he was very brave and how proud I was of him. Then, I confessed to him that I had been struggling with my own issues with drinking and was starting to work on figuring out the next steps. He gave a very warm and grateful response and offered to help if there was anything he could do. Just saying the words to someone else that knows me was help enough in that moment, and still is in this one.

Later in the afternoon, I gave a full recap of the past couple of weeks to my therapist. I barely let her get a word in as I rattled though the all of the highs of my not drinking and the lows of my falling back into it, but the self-discovery in the process. Then, through gritted teeth, I found these next words escaping my mouth and it was too late to take them back: “I think maybe I just can’t be someone can drink.” As noncommittal as that might sound, just making that statement is maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever said. It seems much easier to admit that I have a problem with alcohol, but this is on another level. This meant that this will be with me for the rest of my life. After poring over all of the positive benefits of not drinking, she called me out and wanted me to tell her about any downsides I might have considered. Downsides? Hell yes, there are downsides I’ve considered! I like to drink. I like the way it makes me feel when I’m in the midst of it. I love, and I mean love the taste of a great glass of wine, and there is nothing quite like a good scotch or bourbon. I would miss the hell out of it and can’t fully picture my life without it, it’s ingrained in me. Most of all, and this is the biggie, I hate the fact that this is the place I have come to. I hated that my dad had an alcohol problem, so how in the hell I did get here after knowing how awful that was? While my situation is not as severe, it’s still a situation. Alcohol has become an issue for me and damn that makes me mad.

I came home at the end of the day feeling wiped out and with no appetite, but still with the urge to walk in the door and say ‘fuck it’ and pour myself a drink. Instead of walking to the wine fridge, I walked to the sofa and fell asleep with my cat. A boring evening to some, but one that I supposed I needed. This morning, when I reached into the cabinet for a coffee mug, there was one staring me down like it does every day. It used to be a favorite, but I didn’t feel right about using it over the past few weeks. Today I took action and into trash it went.

alcohol problem drinking

I’m not comfortable with it yet, but I’ll admit right here, right now, that I believe the days of filling up my wine fridge are over. Yeah, I just wrote ‘are’ over and not ‘might be’ over. Talk about big.


recovery alcohol drinking

Feelings Are Hard

Yesterday was a difficult day, and I want to thank those of you who stopped by this space of mine to show support. Your words and just knowing that there are other people who can relate on some level, meant more to me than I can express. Today, I am filled with gratitude for you.

I’ll admit, when I posted yesterday, I was sitting in my office feeling like the walls were closing in. I was carrying so much guilt for the drinking over the weekend, that the heaviness of it actually made me want to grab another drink so that I wouldn’t feel it. To make matters worse, I still have a membership to a winery from a Napa visit we made two years ago, and as I was sitting at my desk with this weight on my shoulders, guess what showed up? The two bottles of wine being handed over by the FedEx driver was like a big, fat slap in my face. I didn’t know if the universe was trying to punish me or test me. Instead of drinking, I wrote that post. I knew I needed a release and that was the form that I chose, thankfully.

I’m not unfamiliar with the fact that alcohol is used to numb out, but I genuinely don’t think I recognized that it is feelings that I seem to be running from. Feelings are hard. Feelings are something that my therapist has been trying for over a year to work with me on allowing to surface. It isn’t that I don’t have them, I’m not some rock hard person who doesn’t have an emotion, but I don’t really know how to have and allow a painful feeling yet. Running from them has been my way of life, it is how I survived as a child and an abusive first marriage, it’s all I’ve ever known. They make me feel awkward, uncomfortable and quite frankly, judged.

After dumping out those words yesterday and experiencing a small release, I was finally able to start using my tools of self examination. Something had happened to me as I moved into the prior weekend – as good as I was physically feeling without alcohol in my body every day, I started to grow anxious. I was snapping at my husband and easily irritated, which is not something I am prone to at all. Underneath this, there had been a couple of memories from childhood that had popped up out of the blue to say hello, and I found it much harder to push them away than normal. I didn’t quite see it when I was in the midst of it, but I had what Oprah would call an “A-ha” moment yesterday when I finally saw, and I mean really, truly recognized, that I have been turning to alcohol to get away from my feelings. It’s odd, I’ve been completely aware of this idea, but must not have been fully buying into the concept, until I found myself face-to-face with it.

I didn’t drink yesterday. I made it through my work day while the heaviness slowly lifted. I spent time on self-care and even gave an online Smart Recovery meeting a try for the first time. There is a lot to learn there, I’m not sure yet how I feel about it, but it definitely seems worth checking out. More importantly, the hour I spent as a part of that meeting was an hour where the alcohol obsession took a back seat. Today I meet with my therapist, which should make for an interesting conversation, but I will be nothing but honest with her. Today, I also will not drink.


Is This Day One of No Drinking?

Today I noticed that it felt good not to have a drink last night. It may not have felt so good last night when I was agonizing over wanting just one glass of wine, but this morning I am proud of myself. I don’t know what kind of drinking problem I have, but I do know that my relationship with alcohol isn’t heading down a good path. I don’t drink massive amounts every day, but I do tend to drink every day. I’ve pondered over this for a long time, I’ve even tried to stop for periods here and there, only to convince myself that it’s no big deal, really. Drinking is fun, it’s relaxing, it’s something I enjoy with friends or after a long day of work. What could be wrong with that? But something feels different for me this time.

I’ve come to realize that when I drink, I am doing a disservice to myself. I don’t write, I don’t read, I skip meditation and I don’t exercise as much. In short, I neglect the things that I love for a love that is growing far superior to those things, the love of how the alcohol makes me feel. I’ve given great consideration over the past couple of years of how short life can really be, yet when I spend every night in a haze, no matter how slight, I am robbing myself of time. I am diminishing the power that lies inside of me and stifling any purpose that I might have.

What changed this time? What made me view this so differently as all the times that I’ve thought about this before? Well, I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself through therapy and overall self-awareness this past year, and I am realizing that it’s impossible to heal all of the other areas in my life if I’m blatantly ignoring a big red flag that is staring me down. These thoughts were triggered yesterday while listening to a recent episode of the The Bubble Hour which featured an interview with Andrea Owen. I went through a spell a number of months ago where this podcast was on regular rotation, it was what I turned to in order to prevent grabbing that glass of wine each night. But, it was not successful because I don’t think I was looking at it the right way. I wasn’t really seeing into myself so clearly, and I’m not saying that I necessarily do right at this moment, but when I listened to the show with Andrea yesterday, it felt like I had been hit by a bolt of lightning. I want so much more out of this life and I’m letting it waste away by letting alcohol slowly take over.

I don’t know what this means for me yet as I move forward. I don’t know if this means that I am completely stopping, and if it’s wrong that I haven’t made that commitment, or if it means that I am going to just put limits on the drinking. What I do know is that I want to feel good, I want to express myself, I want to live fully and with a drink or three every day, that won’t happen. It feels that this new concept is a pretty good place to start.


The “Today I Noticed” posts started as a writing project that I’ve decided to continue. These are completely in-the-moment posts, no editing, no reworking, just my voice as it is right now.