Why was I so angry?

9 Nov

10:05 pm

As you know, I’ve been rather methodically going through my “stuff,” the stuff that I threw into storage a decade ago and haven’t really looked at since.  All these seven years, while getting sober, I have speculated but never really “corroborated” the conclusions I came to regarding why I drank; I never really looked at all those writings and notes and pictures, just to see, was that really how it went down?  Was that really who I was back then?

Anyway, the question keeps coming to mind, Why was I so angry?  And, after all these years and all that wine–and now, all these weeks spent purposefully going over my “boxes of the past,” so to speak–I don’t really know.  It’s really a tough concept to wrap my head around:  I was SO angry back then, and it defined my life and relationships during that time as well as impacted them for years to come, but I cannot for the life of me really remember what I was fuming about.  It’s crazy-making, albeit I’m grateful to not be anywhere near that angry anymore–and, have had, dare I say, years of feeling relatively stable and joyful.

I have to say, this process of sorting through my stuff (as we prepare for our move back to the island) has been tedious by my own making, and it’s been more a process of reminiscing as well as letting go (of the past, of my youth, I am not even sure).  I mean, I was perfectly fine not remembering all this stuff, and then here come the boxes and I’m all reflective and sad and kind of reliving that horrible past that “caused” me to drink in the first place (caused in quotes because I know that no one or no thing made me drink–I loved drinking until I didn’t and couldn’t).

After going over some stuff, looking for clues as to what made me so angry that I ramped up my drinking, this is what I do know:  I seemed to be my “old” self, bruised and battered like everyone else, but still happy and smiling, confident and well, resilient, up until about 2000 or 2001 (I turned 27 in 2001).  I had already gone through many things prior to then that might have broken me but didn’t–fighting parents; a binge eating disorder in my late teens and early 20s; college itself, which was difficult and maybe a key to my drinking.  I majored in biology/pre-med, something that I wasn’t even really good at (Does a love for animals necessarily equate to studying biology?) because I told myself that “I should”–instead of something that I loved and was good at and DREAMT of doing, writing, specifically writing poetry.  I was too afraid, so I pushed my dreams out of mind and did what I told myself I should do.  I negated my dreams, discarded my self.  It hurts to even write that, to read it out loud, but it’s true.  Pain is behind anger, and maybe this is where it all began?

All this is to say, there wasn’t this one big thing that made me angry.  Did I just feel erased, exhausted by my refusal to express the real me?  Maybe.  I mean, looking back at pictures of myself from around 2000, 2001, 2002–that was when I became uber-angry and started drinking; or, started drinking and became uber-angry–I can’t come up with any one thing that happened that should have made me as angry as I looked and felt.

I hate to admit it, but I think my drinking ramped up with an increasing disappointment over my romantic relationships.  Like, it sucks to admit that my life could have been derailed by a man (haha), but I think that most of the depression and rage that came to a head during my late 20s came from feeling slighted and not good enough and then, finally, unloved and unloveable, or so I told myself.  Of course, I had a role in all these failed romances (I was that crazy drunk bitch), but it was still painful and frustrating–and made me angry.

Another thing that might have made me angry, over time, was the fact that by my late 20s, I was starting to get ground down by always doing what I was supposed to be doing, and hating every minute of it (I mean, I still do the same kind of work, but I have a longer-term plan, and I’ve spent years finding my voice as a freelancer).  I never allowed myself to freely express myself, to not be agreeable, to be loud and ugly and well, angry!  By the time I turned 30, I finally decided to go back to school for one of two things (writing was one), two things that I had determined I liked.  Before then, I felt like I had not lived a determined life, that I had let this people-pleasing mentality go on for far too long.  I was desperate to break free–to fucking break things!  And, break things I did, while blackout drunk.

I think one key aspect to blackout drinking is saying, fuck it, I give in/up, let me just smash the fuck out of it all.  Let me drop the ball.  The only way perfectionists and people-pleasers, the always-agreeable ones, are going to let it go is to not be aware of the fact that they are letting it go.  For me, drinking to the point of not remembering what I was doing not only let me do things that I would never normally allow myself to do, but it also allowed me to not have to account for dropping the ball, you know?  If you can’t remember, it didn’t happen (in your mind, at least).

At the end of the day, I can’t say what ONE thing made me angry.  What I can say is, I cannot blame anyone else for doing anything to me that caused me to be angry, and to drink.  No parent, no man, no biology text book made me drink.  I chose to drink–the way I wanted to drink, which was to erase the anger, the hurt; to erase the self who was stuck inside, trying to get out.

Drinking soothed my angst (I was scared to be a poet, so I told myself that someone was telling me I “should” not do it), my loneliness (I wasn’t able or ready to relate, which is why I picked the wrong men), and my social anxiety (I am by nature an introvert, so drinking made meeting new people actually somewhat fun).

SO, do I have any more answers than I did before I got my stuff out of storage and started rummaging through said past for clues as to why I drank?  Eh, sure, I guess, but like all things related to alcoholism, nothing is cut and dry, and everything is everything.  It’s not like I can close my boxes and computer and say, I know why I veered off track (the scarier question is, was I ever on one?), I know what made me drink.  It won’t ever be resolved, but…there’s good news.

The good news is, I’ve realized with almost certainty that you don’t have to live in the past; you can remember your mistakes and learn from them, and you can process your experiences in order to be a better person or live a lighter, truer life–but, you can take the good bits of the past, and relive those, and leave the bad bits behind.  You don’t have to relive any of it.

Honestly, I feel like I’ve lived LIFETIMES since that time, which was almost 20 years ago.  And, really, does it even matter anymore what made me so angry if I’ve moved so far beyond who I was then?

Let it go, let it go, let it go.  Learn from your past, cherish it; but don’t hold onto it.  Such a simply worded mantra for one of life’s hardest exercises.

Welcome to the doll house

21 Oct

1:06 am

I like that title, never saw the movie, and it only pertains to this post in that, I’ve been going through my old collection of Barbie dolls and really getting into it again–remembering why I loved them so much as a kid.  I was going to put them all up on eBay, but um, most aren’t worth that much because they are super-used, and, I do NOT have the patience to spend HOURS picking through my dolls and clothes and trying to figure out if this was Dream Date or Loving You or Peaches N Cream Barbie and then, after posting to eBay, having to field collectors’ questions!  I thought I was pedantic (which is what makes me a good collector/historian…!).  Still, THAT was actually fun, going through my dolls; I think I’ll probably keep the special dolls and clothes (I had the dream house and car and camper van, too, back in the day; I kind of want to hold onto something of my collection!).

What wasn’t as much fun was going through the other stuff.  And, I have been avoiding writing about it and I guess I should write about it, is all I have to say.

About what? Well, everything! Haha. Life, getting older, my dog getting older, my mom getting older, um, discovering via all this sorting of old stuff–writings, mainly, and photos–that my life seems to have been not an adventurous, freewheeling trip of courage and coming of age; but more a meandering path of mental illness.  That, all my writings are not a gold mine of material but a testament to mental illness over the years–and how to live with it while also not even acknowledging that it is there.  What an iceberg I feel like this realization might be; no wonder I threw this shit into storage a decade ago, moved to the island to start over, and never, EVER thought about looking back literally, at this stuff.  I didn’t want to confront it, and I couldn’t.

One good thing about getting older is that, for me anyway, I can see my own life and choices and path and behaviors much more objectively (it also helps that I am not drinking and wine is no longer exacerbating my issues or masking them!).  What mental illness am I talking about?  I’m talking about depression and social anxiety, sure; but also, things like being on the autism spectrum, borderline personality disorder, maybe even some form of paranoid delusions of grandeur (schizoaffective disorder, something of that nature).  I am not saying I suffered from these things; but, that, there may have been some element of all of them in my past.

It’s not easy, and it’s a slow unraveling.  I’ve kind of wanted to drink past few weeks, but more out of boredom than avoidance or fear of confronting this stuff.  I mean, I’m OK, no one is going to die, but…it’s a bit scary and daunting to remember just how effed up I felt back then, as a teen and 20-something (and 30-something!).

So much has happened the past few weeks, too.  After my mom’s visit–and seeing in action what I would call pretty obvious mental illness; where do you think I get it from?–I am just a bit burnt on all the self-analysis.

My mom’s visit was hard, to say the least.  I don’t think we’ll be spending anymore time alone (without the buffer of other family members), I hate to say.  Before her visit, I spent what felt like an eternity sorting through photos from 20 years ago and beyond.  I hadn’t looked at the scrapbooks and piles of prints from grade school all the way through my early 30s (about the time digital cameras took over, thank god) for years; I mean, we’re talking, I hadn’t looked at some of these photos but ONCE since I printed them at a Walgreens in 1995!  At this rate, I won’t look at these again until I’m 70 (um, in 25 years–holy CRAP, that sounds terrifying); what’s the point in keeping them?

And, that is where my mom comes into the picture.  In looking through the old photos, I saw who she was then more clearly, and I saw who I was then more clearly.  She is different now, but not that different!  All this time, I’ve been thinking that somewhere along the way, she just BECAME super-irritating to me; but, she’s always been herself.  So, what’s changed?  It must be me!  I have changed, a LOT, and especially around how I view my upbringing and how I let it and my stressors affect my life now.

Without really going in too deep around her and me and our issues, one of my big takeaways from our weekend is that, she does not want to hear the “objective” truth; she’s not ready to truly look at her own role in her unhappiness.  The ONLY reason I can say this is that I’ve lived it; as an alcoholic, as we all know, a HUGE part of our recovery is coming to terms with the following life FACTS:

it’s not all about me

stop taking things personally

it’s none of my business what others think of me

let it go

These basic “tenets” of sobriety seem to be what normies just know, or what other people learn as they mature without having to go through recovery first!  Why, at 73 years old, is my mother still seeming to refuse these universal mantras?  Like, I know that it’s really hard to choose to not take things personally, but I also know that continuing to do so causes me pain and that pain is greater than the effort of practicing new behavior.  I don’t know, it was like talking to a wall.  She knows all this stuff, too, but for some reason, she seems to be clinging more and more to choosing patterns of behavior that are negative and take up all her time.  Who knows?  I sure don’t know it all, and I can’t spend much more time trying to figure another person out (I am enough work!).

After talking a bit more with a few people close to me, I realized, if she’s not ready to try to see her role in relationships that are not working for her, and if she’s not ready to do a little self-analysis, then…I can’t take on the sadness and guilt that I do feel because she seems terribly unhappy (unless she isn’t really all that unhappy and is just being dramatic or passive aggressive–another story for another blog post).  I just have to let it go, and allow myself to do what I can for her but to then be happy, unapologetically and fully.  And I do, and she wholeheartedly wants me to (consciously, at least).

At this point, I’m like, who knows?  I have to let it go, and I will…

On that note, my brain is a bit fried, I am burning up tonight (again, who KNOWS what’s going on with my hormones, why one week or day I’m fine, the next my torso is on fire, and the next, it’s only my legs!  WHO KNOWS?), and I really just need to close up shop and turn the light out (in my brain).  I had a great day taking my dog to the beach–she’s “elderly” now, sweet girl, and that is painful; but, the twinges are counteracted by the fact that she’s still out there, frolicking in the water, and truly loving life.  What more could a girl want for her “daughter?”

We are moving in less than FIVE short weeks, and of course, my pedantic self has sold off quite a bit of our furniture.  I have this strange desire to get rid of EVERYTHING, to have no bleepity bleeping stuff anymore–maybe I’m just tired of carrying the weight of the past, feeling like I owe it something that I don’t; maybe I’m just tired of caring about keeping stuff.  I’ve never been one to be truly obsessive about not having clutter, but lately, I’ve been dreaming of a truly clutter-free existence where no stuff is going to trigger me, where the only thing that surrounds my field of view is white light, an open space of present-future, silence to meditate and dream…

Let go of carrying the past around

7 Oct

12:02 am

I grant myself permission to let go of the past.  Drunky Drunk Girl:  You can let go of carrying around your past.  Literally.

So, I think I mentioned to you that my boo and I have decided to move back to our island home, and in preparation (because it’s really impractical to ship a lot of shit down there), I have been slogging through my boxes and bags of SCHTUFF, and it is not fun.

Did I tell you that I stored my stuff for uh, almost a decade?  Yeah, I stored it, had my drunken breakdown, moved to our island home, and simply forgot about it while I got sober and started a new, much lighter and more wonder-full life (I needed to; it’s how I got sober, finally letting go of some of what I had been carrying around, physically and emotionally, for years).

Well, now that I’ve got it all in my office (I finally cleared out the unit a few months ago), I have been forced to pare it down, drip by drop.  Paper by paper.  Photo by photo.  I could just toss it all, but, eh, I can’t do that–I wonder if this is how people on Storage Wars feel?  The constant pull of your STUFF…

I’ve been doing it on the weeknights and sometimes, entire weekends.  I mean, it should have been done years ago, along the way.  I feel like a “normal” person would have done it years ago.  But, I just wasn’t ready.  Maybe I’m a hoarder?  I do totally have some tendencies, and can kind of relate to that mentality!

Anyway, over the past decade, I built up more and more courage every time I went back to my storage unit to throw out, give away, or donate just a bit more stuff, including furniture and clothes and blankets and blah blah blah–all of which, ALL OF WHICH, tugged at me emotionally to give up.  (Oh, that’s the faux-velvet “cat suit” I wore going out to my first gay club in 1995; Aww, that’s my studded belt I bought in LA when I thought I was a rocker-chic with only one piece of rocker-chic clothing to my name then and now; Wow, my ballet slippers from that ONE class I took at 23, cuz, yeah, I was going to become a ballet dancer taking my first class since grade school at 23…)  In paring down that kind of stuff, it was hard; I had to go through each and every piece of clothing, and like, relive those moments, years, eras of my coming of age.  And, like, let them go.  It was hard…until it was dark in the storage facility and I was fondling ratty clothing that I hadn’t worn or even looked at for years.  Buh-bye became a lot easier to say every year I went back to “check” on my unit.

As you can imagine, it was tiring and of course, obsessive.  Yet, I feel the same way toward the daunting task of going through my writings, and photos, and all the “historical” stuff that tells the story of my life.  Moreso, even.  Now, I am working through the hard stuff:  mounds of CDs, tons of photo prints, entire plastic containers full of saved cards over the years; even bigger containers of endless letters from my year abroad, not to mention–let’s not forget–all my “brilliant” writings from over the years, stashed in a seemingly infinite amount of notebooks, looseleaf pages, planners, diaries, and everything else that one might have been able to write on.  Luckily, a lot of stuff after about 2003 starts to show up solely on CDs, which is great–easy to transfer to USB or the cloud.

What have I learned today?  Haha.  Well, for one, I am too fecking exhausted to carry the past around anymore.  I just cannot.  I am ready to let it go, mainly because, god, my life sucked then.  I mean, I am who I am because of what came before, but, what came before was not all that pretty or something I want to relive.  I was lonely, searching, and very easy to intimidate back then; it affected me, my choices, and my friendships.  Again, I can cherish the past, but I don’t have to want to relive it, right?  Right.

I looked at every picture, from grade school to high school, college, early 20s, late-20s, grad school, wondering, who and what made me a drunk?  I mean, every picture:  Did how I was then contribute to me becoming a drunk?  Did he do it?  Did she make me the way I was–pained and increasingly vexed and sad and unsure?  I saw a LOT of photos of a sad girl; I read a LOT of chats and journal entries of someone who was seriously searching for herself.  (Thank fucking GOD I found her, but I wish it had started, me finding myself, before my early 30s; I feel like I was SUCH a late bloomer, that life really did literally start for me at 40, just five years ago!)

I am playing this blame game the ENTIRE time I’m going through all my old shit; and, I can never let go of the conviction, in my mind, that somehow it was ALL MY FAULT.  Yet, someone had to have done something to make me the way I was, the way I would be, years later, right?  Was it my parents?  Was it my personality?  Both, and everything else that came into my life?  I don’t know.  And, what if I find out?  Will it change anything about how things progressed?

My life now, ME now, is way, way better than it was back then; and, while I can appreciate the past and cherish it, simply put, I don’t feel like I have to carry it around anymore to memorialize what is gone.  Granted, I will hold onto most of the old photos, and of course, all of my old writings, but one day, I can actually imagine throwing it all onto a heap and setting it ablaze.  And that is an insane thought for a writer who has defined herself all these years by what she has written.

Which brings me to learning number two:  If I don’t identify anymore with the product of my efforts, what is my life worth?  What and who am I without all my papers and books and notes that actually show, hey, I did this, and hey, I accomplished that?  What have I done anyway, if it doesn’t seem to matter if I burn it all at this point?  It’s like, if a tree falls and no one hears it, right?  If I have no proof of my existence, did I live?  Does my life even matter?  I am 45, and I am actually thinking that most of what I’ve written and produced, is nothing; worthless, in the grand scheme of things; prologue, at most, to my best work…which is yet to come.  So, what does that mean for my life’s work and value, if I am already halfway through it?  I don’t know yet.

And, finally, number three:  I was nicer back then.  I wanted and needed and cultivated and prioritized friendships, close ones, back then.  I can see it in all the letters and cards and notes that friends sent.  Now?  I don’t really get a lot of those cards because I don’t have a lot of close friendships.  Again, who’s to blame?  Do most people just grow apart over the years?  And, if not, was it me who pulled away when I became a drunk, angry, paranoid; when I came into my own and realized what I wanted and went for it (journalism kind of became a single-minded pursuit for me for a while there)?  Was it them?  Is there anyone to blame?  Should I try to fix it?  I have thought about reaching out to all these people from my past, yet…it feels like it wouldn’t be worth the effort of finding out that what I’m looking for no longer exists.

So, that was my weekend!  Like I said, it had to be done; it has to be done.  Yet, I am looking forward to it being done, to it being pared down, to a lighter load, to a new start, and…to just burning the remaining lot of it, sooner or later!  Haha…

(My mom is coming for a visit this week, which I will probably end up telling you about. And, my job continues to kick my ass; why did I think that nonprofit would be less work than a corporate gig?  Oh, and next time, remind me to tell you about my progress in perimenopause (haha):  things are getting better, I have to admit.  My burning up/dry chills cycles are getting shorter, less severe, and, I am having them less often (some nights, while I am hot, I am not burning up).  I have continued my “Costa Rica” diet, or have tried really hard to cut out breads and all sweets.  Now, I mainly have rice for my carb, if I want one, and have been eating a LOT less snacks and sweets.  I really, really, really think eliminating wheat and oat-based flours has helped with the night heat…  More to come in another post.)

The power of a sound bath

14 Sep

10:19 pm

I think I mentioned in my last post that I recently spent a week on the west coast of Costa Rica, mainly to do yoga, but also to be alone to process the fact that there are changes and evolutions going on in my life, and there is grief, and I am having a hard time dealing with all that AND keeping everything else in place.  I only spent four days there–two were traveling to get there, and then, the final two days were spent getting home (and, stressing:  I was booked through Miami on the way home, and Hurricane Dorian was just picking up speed that week and it looked like it was going to blow through Florida).  Anyway, my time there was short and I only had four days, but four days was enough to see a transformation.

WhirrWhirrWhirrrrrrrring.  This was the sound of my mind–the sound of my incessant thinking–during the first two days (well, all the time).  I filled those days taking yoga, walking along the beaches (gosh, the Pacific is immense and amazing–and warm!?–down there), eating fish and rice and fruit (my perfect diet, I must say), and going to bed.  Yet, my mind!  Would.  Not.  Stop.  Thinking.  JESUS.  I mean, I could literally hear the whirring sound…like a swarm of mosquitoes, filling my skull to the brim, spinning in one huge loud circle of BUZZ, WHIRR, WHIRRRRRRRRING.

On the evening of the second day, I decided to take a sound bath.  The instructor was fantastic–the resort where I took my classes had some of the best teachers I’ve ever had, actually–and the sound bath was really cool.  I mean, I’ve participated in sound “healing” ceremonies before; and yeah, afterward I do feel calmer and I can remember at least a few interesting visuals that came up during the ceremony; but, I have never felt anything beyond that.  I enjoy them, that’s true, but I’m not sure I would consider them to be healing, per se.

Until I woke up on the third day feeling…quiet.  QUIETED.  Happy.  Calm, clear, optimistic.  Like, the sense of clarity was unmistakably uplifting!  The whirring had stopped.  What the…?  I walked along the beach that morning, noticing that all my confusing, conflicted thoughts and thought tendencies and thought patterns–this mental weight that had been bogging me down for the past two days–had just gone away.  The whirring was gone.  Now, I don’t know if I should credit the sound bath, but…

The following night, my last, I went to my second sound bath–and this time, I listened a bit more closely to what the teacher was saying before he started in on his instruments (I have to admit, during the first class, I was just like, yeah, uh huh, right).  And what he said was:  by utilizing sound waves, sound baths ultimately allow your higher mind to distance itself from your lower mind (the thinking, the judging, the ego mind)–which helps to quiet the lower mind.  I was like, what?  That is literally exactly how I felt; that I had this newfound sense of clarity because the whirring just seemed to have ceased, and my higher mind was now fully present–quiet, not as judgmental, open.  This, in turn, made me feel happier, friendlier to self and others, more willing to have conversations with strangers, more able to take in and enjoy the scenery…

At home now, what this clearer, quieter state of mind has allowed me to do is be more positive, in general, and resist negativity (from my own mind, from others).  I don’t feel like judging people or situations or getting angry; I just want to let it go and continue to vibrate, as it were, at my higher, quieter level.  It’s helped me feel and be more positive toward my relationships, my job, my coworkers; it’s helped me let things roll off my back and maintain a sense of calm happiness.

This feeling was really strong during the first week after I got back; I’m on my second week now, and while I don’t feel as happy and/or quieted, I find myself going back to that place of quiet clarity in my mind.  I mean, even if I no longer presently own that sense of clarity, I can remember I once did and what it felt like–which goes a long way toward cultivating (I guess you could say) that state of mind.

It was definitely worth suspending my disbelief!  Now, I feel like there is hope, there is a place to go, there IS clarity and quiet to be had–it’s just a matter of finding the tools to get there and developing those tools to keep you there.

Stillness, checking in, and…grief?

29 Aug

12:04 am

I hate that my posts are OH-so-heavy seemingly all the time, but lately, I’ve been away.  Disconnected, really.  It’s why I am here, on the west coast of Costa Rica, doing yoga and being alone and trying to get myself back.  Or, get back to myself.  Or, both!

Before coming here, though, I spent a few days in the city where I started this blog, where I got sober–and, where my drinking became alcoholic.  It was another pilgrimage, I suppose; since storing my stuff nine years ago (I’ve since cleared that unit out–a big deal after nine years!), I’ve clung to this idea that I would move back.  For sure, I would.  This is (was) where I belonged, where I am (was) my most “me,” where I feel (felt) at home.  This was my dream, for nine years.  Well, over the past nine years, I’ve gone from definitely moving back to probably moving back to most likely not moving back…to probably NEVER moving back because I don’t belong there and I don’t want to live there!  It’s been a long, gradual process of letting go–and frankly, I don’t know if I’ve actually fully let go yet.

It’s like, I can barely articulate it to myself, so I’m going to try and write it out and see if by writing it out, I can somehow locate this neurotic loop that my brain has been running for weeks, months, and years.  It could be as simple as admitting, I can’t let go of the past.  What does that mean, though?  Is it that I want to relive that past?  A part of me has a certain obsessive, stalker-esque fondness for that period of time when I started this blog:  it was all new, and I had a LOT to look forward to.  I had a new love, I was finally getting sober and starting to write about it (on this blog), and, I had finally made it back to the city of my dreams!  I realized this, as I was freakishly standing (once again) in front of the apartment that I sublet that summer (in 2012):  my nostalgia for these early years might be so strong because it includes finally moving back to the city of my dreams.  Now, do I want to relive this past?  No, I don’t think I want to relive any past–I do want to live in the here and now.  I think I just miss feeling the way I felt then.  And, every time I go back to this city, I want to feel how I felt then.

Every time I go back to said city, I am looking for this…sense of looking-forward-to, or anticipation.  I don’t know, maybe I equate this feeling of, let’s call it anticipatory glee with being young?  I was only seven years younger then!  It’s like, I want that feeling yet I know that I don’t want to relive the past, and I know that what I have now is like, the culmination of all that so-called dreaming/anticipating/looking-foward-to.  If I have what I was yearning for then, why am I sad that I am no longer in a place where I don’t have it?

Sounds neurotic, maybe even a bit crazy, doesn’t it?

What has changed in the past seven years for me is hard to deny:  I don’t want to live in this city anymore, and moreover, I don’t want to cling to my dream of living in this city anymore.  Yet, I WANT to want to!  I feel like I’m giving up, and that scares me.  What is there for me, after I finally do let go of this dream that I no longer want?  Who am I?  How do I define myself now?

Every time I go back, I become less and less enamored with the city; this time, it just exhausted me, it triggered me, and I saw all the warts.  I have almost fully embraced the fact that I need green space, nature; I need it to rejuvenate and inspire me!  I also have come to depend on a much less stimulating environment in order to write/be creative; if I know there is something new to consume (a new restaurant, a new bar–at least when I was drinking, which I’m not–a new museum), it’s like, I cannot BUT consume it out of some obsessive need to know it all or do it all or just a fear of missing out.  Yet, it’s distracting, and I don’t get anything done.  And, that triggers me to feel confused, sad, depressed, wound up, whatever it is that writers (or creatives) feel that makes us go insane if we don’t write or create.

So, it was a tiring, vexing visit; and, after all my walking, stalking, and incessant thinking, I had a night where I just melted down.  It was brought on by me looking at The Dodo videos, which made me start thinking of our sweet boy who we had to put down last year, which just snowballed into a general sense of grief–for our “son,” for myself, for my dreams, for my youth.  GAH.  JESUS.  (It’s funny now, but only because it sounds so freaking neurotic!)  It felt like my mind was dissolving that night; I felt like I had some sort of “dementia” episode, if there even is such a thing.  OH, WAIT, there is such thing, and it’s called a night of binge drinking and a hangover the next day–which I totally felt like I had.  I had an emotional hangover, and the ONLY place I’ve ever had these types of hangovers is this city!  Make the connection, Drunky Drunk Girl:  this city triggers you for all sorts of reasons, why keep coming back?  

These days, I have to admit that I’ve moved on, thankfully; I’ve formed new plans and conjured new dreams.  I am here now, in Costa Rica, and it is super-refreshing, a huge mental reprieve, to be here and now with my present-day self.  A part of me feels like I am grieving, though (which hit me clearly during a sound bath class that I took)–and I think I just needed to sit still for a little while to actually acknowledge that the grief is there, and that it is real, and that it’s legitimate to feel this way.

Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes…

To be (sober) or not to be (sober), is that the question?

11 Aug

9:26 pm

Since I’ve been working this new job–my first big-girl job, in a certain sense, since getting sober–I’ve been wondering how my coworkers would (secretly) perceive me if they knew I was once a raging drunk?

I say “first” big-girl job because this is my first full-time, non-contract job since getting sober–I worked as a freelancer for many years, and while I had a long-term gig (because it was freelance, so to speak), I never had to truly commit.  Sure, I gave my all, and my time, and my talents–but I knew that I wasn’t being counted on to deliver; I knew my job didn’t necessarily depend on both my performance and my commitment, however perceived, to that performance.  With this job, it’s full-time and it’s a lot of both professional and emotional commitment.  Shit, I really care what my coworkers think of me, and if not of me, then definitely my performance.  I wish I didn’t care, frankly; but, my obsessive preparation for the presentation I had to give at a team meeting a few weeks ago says that I really, truly DO CARE.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for someone whose entire alcoholic history is intertwined with people-pleasing, perfectionism–a severe self-imposed pressure that came from God knows where, really–well, it’s disappointing that I haven’t sort of grown out of that after seven years sober.

Then again, seven years sober is not that long of a time (and, as you all know, I had slips here and there; my last official drink was January, 2016).

Coming back to what I’ve been wondering:  how does one come out to coworkers when it’s been a long time since you’ve been there, in that raging drunk place?  I understand the desire to come out, and the immediacy of it, when you’re in that place; I came out to a lot of people when I was a few years sober–I was so proud and so free.

Now, though, it’s been a while, and I have had years to sink into this maybe-false sense of self–am I still an alcoholic?  I am no longer a high-functioning hot mess; I no longer consider myself a hot mess.  I have transitioned–at least to a certain extent in my mind–into a new person, someone between “used to be a drunk” to “used to be a drunk but not really sure if it even matters anymore to me, let alone you, if I used to be a drunk.”  With that transition, which has been gradual and ongoing, into this weird place of “long-term sobriety,” I can’t help but wonder, does it matter anymore that I am sober?  Do I still define myself as sober–and, therefore, attach myself to all that that entails, including my long recovery–and if so, how?

One of the things I’ve found hard this year, since I’ve been at this job, is that I know that I don’t have to identify anymore with being Drunky Drunk Girl; I could totally forget that she existed, if I choose.  I am so far removed from jobs who knew me as DDG; I am far removed from my first foray into the working world post-recovery, which was that long many years ago as a freelancer–now, post-post-recovery, I could really just disappear into the world of normal people who work and don’t drink…

That’s where the rub is; that’s where I feel the most disconnect with myself this past year:  I am anything but normal, and my history, my story of recovery is anything but over.  I know this, I do, but I guess I’ve been hiding from it.  Most days, I have this niggling feeling that I’m hiding out in the normal world, pretending I belong there–and, there’s that imposter syndrome again, right?

I would LOVE to reconnect with DDG, with that person who was “on fire” during my immediate recovery, but I don’t know how to do that besides continuing to blog here, to think about my process of recovery, and to continue reaching within and without for direction and support when I bump up into the HUGE unresolved issues that were essential to my alcoholic drinking.

What I don’t really have a sense for is, is it worth revealing your history to coworkers for whom it might be shocking to the point of them wondering if it’s possible that you could be that old hot mess of a drunk AND this person, who is doing a good job?  Like, if I once was that hot mess of a drunk, would they now judge my performance as “someone who is sober, but seems to be doing great work” instead of “someone who is doing great work?”

Sometimes I feel like jumping from the roof, screaming the benefits and life-changing lessons sobriety has offered me for seven years!  Other times, I feel like quietly gliding down the sidewalk, enjoying my anonymity.  I’m not trying to hide it; maybe if I came out, I’d get more of that old fire around recovery back?  Or, maybe it’d just fall flat, no one would care or remember, and we’d all just get on with our work day?  Maybe, it just doesn’t matter right now anyway. 🙂

It’s strange, long-term sobriety, but the lessons NEVER stop coming.  And for that, and for each day still that I am not drunk or hungover, I am ever-grateful.  For those still struggling, you got this; it does get better, it really effing does.

 

Mental illness should not be a moral failing

28 Jul

11:24 am

So, because I’m either a cynic/pessimist, or because I’ve been around the sobriety block and tend to see deeper into things or events than the average “normie” and apply my perceptions differently as they relate to my long-term sobriety–YES, my presentation went off successfully, but I did learn a few things.  I learned that PTSD is real, the brain connections made to enable such a state are powerful, and using drugs to help yourself recover is not only not a bad thing, but a professional method toward recovery.  I learned that my real voice needed to be “let out of prison,” that some/maybe a lot of people relate success to willfulness only and not to a variety of factors (some of which, like mental illness, you are not always in control of), and of my own strong desire for approval from others.

In short, I mentioned the other day that I had been alerted about a month ago by my direct boss that I had to participate in giving a team presentation to our larger group/team at our group meeting that happened just this past week.  Upon hearing the news, and for the next month, I worried and obsessed–and prepared.  I have had a major fear of public speaking and stage fright surrounding this for about 13 years (since an incident in graduate school), and I simply HAD to deliver this time around.  I knew that if I didn’t get help, I would not be able to get up there, I would disappoint my big boss (my boss’s boss) and team yet again (I’ve had, as it goes with stage fright, major issues even introducing myself to the team at past events), and I might even jeopardize my job!

So, I freaking made it happen.  I booked an appointment with a psychiatrist, got a prescription, then used said drug at various public speaking “test” events around my ‘hood all throughout the month of July to see if it worked, and how much of it I needed to take for it to work.  Fast forward to the day of my talk–effing FINALLY–on Thursday of this past week, and WOW/HOLY EFF, I rocked it!  I got up in front of the crowd, and all of the sudden, this deep sense of calm came over me; I just stood there, folded my hands in front of my legs, and began speaking, interacting, and generally, performing at a level I never thought possible for me.  On the flight home, I came up with this as to how it made me feel:  the real me was released from my jail cell, and not only that, set free into the grass, where I danced, literally, to celebrate being free.  It was like, the real me was finally able to come out and perform–I was finally able to show my team who I was, how prepared I usually am, how committed and invested I am in this job, and how well I am doing the job, or at the very least, trying to do it.

It didn’t go unnoticed:  everyone, including my big boss, complimented me; she even took me aside and told me that not only did I do a great job, but that I had improved very much over the past three months (we last saw each other in April at another conference).  Which brings me to my first point:  how come I was now considered competent and successful, just because I was somehow (um, thanks pharmacology) able to “overcome” my stage fright and perform like a “normal” human being?  I mean, I am always competent, whether I have mental illness or not; it’s not my fault I have this type of stage fright/mental illness; and, it’s not something I can control.  BUT, having it does not preclude me from also being competent and succeeding at my job.

Another thing I realized was how much I was simply craving not just her approval, but the entire team’s.  I mean, I was SO wanting her to say, I approve of you–and she did, more or less, for the first time since I started this job. I felt SO relieved and reassured when, after complimenting me, she actually talked to me as a person (we had never had a real conversation before); and, later throughout the day, I felt somehow more or less included in the upper tier/managerial team (I am not really part of that team, but at my age and with my title and experience, I SHOULD embrace that type of role, if offered).  UGH–I mean, I cannot deny that that was exactly what I was craving, but it sort of startles me that I need approval that badly.

In any case, I am not only flying high, I am super-relieved.  Of course, there will be other conferences and meetings, and of course, I’ll have to decide if and how I will use the medication (there aren’t many side effects, but there are some; also, if I was a masochist, which I kind of am, I might want to keep attending my public speaking group events here at home to practice speaking without the medication–I don’t foresee myself EVER being able to be as calm and “competent-sounding” as I was on Thursday without that medication, but, you never know/stranger things have happened).  For now, though, I am flying high, grateful, and SO ready to put that behind me and move on.

Moving on, indeed!  In other news, we’ve decided to move back to our island!  I won’t say too much about that–it’s been a long 1.5 years here, struggling to learn, evolve, grow, and rediscover ourselves; and, we’ve both sort of found what we were looking for (for him, he doesn’t want what the mainland has to offer, and for me, I can take the parts of it that I know I want–I can work this nonprofit job remotely from there–and leave the rest, which I discovered in the past 18 months I actually don’t miss, want, or need).

Anyway, I just wanted to share the happy news that while I did succeed at my speaking event, it wasn’t without a few major personally-vexing revelations–welcome to long-term sobriety.  (oh, and of course, there was one night where I was SO burnt on the interacting with other people that I craved a glass of wine–but, no can do, folks/le effing sigh)

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