Archive | November, 2012

Sex and sobriety — it’s actually possible?

12 Nov

5:29 pm

Yes, indeed. It actually IS.

SAY WHAT?

Without going into too much detail — har har — I have a few minutes before yet ANOTHER PAIN IN MY ASS MEETING takes up the hours that I somewhat dread anyway, between 4:30 and 7; so, I thought I’d say hello and, um, dump some heavy thoughts on you. Yes, I’m good at that.

As has become apparent to me, most people who drink alcoholically are also doing it to medicate, avoid, or in general, escape. For me, I used booze. I used it for many things: to not feel bored, to not feel sad, to avoid confronting existential problems, like, What should I do with my life? and, How am I going to spend the next few minutes? and, If I spend them wrong, does that mean I’m a loser? or, Man, I don’t know what to do first, maybe I’ll drink to avoid deciding? or, I don’t know how to have fun or take a break, so I’ll drink to avoid dealing with figuring that out. And, on and on.

I realized, long before I quit drinking, that I had a very healthy fear of intimacy; sex, of course, but relationships, in general. I used booze to both avoid them and avoid having to deal with this fear while sober. As I discovered, you get exactly what you’re looking for. I was afraid of dating, of having sex sober, so I drank and got what I really wanted: pathetic, drunk sex with partners who were NOWHERE NEAR relationship material. (Then again, neither was I, and maybe that was also a variable in the equation!)

I have only dated three men in my life, long-term; the last actual relationship I was in was oh, about 8 years ago. Yes, I’ve been single for most of my 30s, mainly out of fear of being known; out of fear of someone — who is much cooler and better and more awesome, of course — finding out just how boring, or fidgety, or indecisive, or lazy, or uncreative, or [insert your favorite diss here] I really am. I avoided not just relationships, but sex. I simply couldn’t get myself to do it, sober. Too close, too intimate. What if we locked eyes and I had to reveal a feeling? What if he expected to have a, gasp!, conversation with me, sober? What would I say? Would he be interested? What if I was depressed, or unsure, or crazy, or kooky, but not his kind of kooky? Would he be OK with that? What if (IF? LOL) he was boring, or shallow, or clueless, or lame, or whatever, and I had to pretend to like him because I was lonely; or because I wanted to give someone a chance in order to feel less “strange bird”-esque for preferring to spend my nights — and days — alone, doing my own thing, at ease and deriving pleasure from that?

Best to just be drunk, to avoid it all, and then hung over, to excuse myself quietly.

What a horrible way to live, eh? And, what about me?, I ask, as I read and remember the self-berating monologue that must have been going on repeat in the back of my mind for years. YEARS.

I had a lot of social anxiety growing up, and it manifested in extreme shyness, in overstudying, in spending most of my non-school-related time alone, writing or reading; and then, sort of following my twin (or, did he follow me?) to the same university; and then, finally, discovering binge eating and binge drinking as a way to avoid it all AND make it feel better at the same time. Fast forward from my 20s to my 30s; I kept drinking the wine, and left all the other stuff behind. Or, so I thought.

Funny thing is, I had a LOT of intimate, and amazing, relationships with women over the years. And, with men who were not men I wanted to date or have sex with. So, it wasn’t all bad, but it got a lot WORSE when I started to drink to ridiculous excess, put work and career success way ahead of love, and isolate.

These days, I’m basking in the fruit of my labors: I ended up entering a relationship with a friend who I’ve known for 10 years, and I feel safe. I don’t know if he knows how difficult it was for me to basically feel the fear and do it anyway, but I’m glad I did. I don’t think there’s a magic bullet; like everything sober, it takes personal work to talk myself out of actually believing that it matters when there’s an “awkward” moment. I don’t think sober folks deal with anything different, either; they may have just learned to confront love and sex earlier than I did. Who knows?

Anyway, I could go ON and ON about this, but I’ll stop for now. Off to a new meeting. I’m a bit…anxious? I’ve never been to this one, and well, I haven’t heard much about it. My gut says that it’ll be weird, and awkward, but hey, Weird and Awkward are my closest friends these days and I promised them yesterday that I’d come out and play again today, so…

Bye, y’all! 32 days, btw!

All I have to do is not drink. Really?

12 Nov

12:07 am

Yes, really.

I’m SO tired, so I’ll make it short: today was a very good day, mainly because it was full, it was sober, and it was all OK. I never thought I’d see the day where I could get up at 7, make a meeting by 8, swim by 11, go furniture shopping and grocery shopping and cook and cook some more and talk to my entire family, ALL ON A SUNDAY (“every day is like Sunday, silent and gray”) — and be OK with not drinking during any of it.

MOI? I can’t believe it, but even for me, the mental cravings have diminished to the point of simply putting up with them, like spiders, rather than having to fend off the flailing, wet hands trying to pull me down to the empty grave.

So, yes. Tired, but good tired. And, not at all vexed; it will all get done, it will all work out, and if it doesn’t, then, well, something sure-as-shit-else will! 😉

Seriously. I never in a hundred lifetimes believed that I would be even close to being able to say, I don’t really feel like drinking. But, I don’t. Every day sans The Grape just reinforces that yes, I can make it through the days, the hours, the events, the emotions without drinking. And, I can do it fairly well, not just grinning and bearing it. I never thought the mental cravings would subside to the extent that they have, but, well, they have. Maybe I’ve just shoved them so far down that…? Or, maybe, the “wolf voice” is getting quieter and quieter in favor of the other, stronger “I need to get this done now so please shut it” Buddha voice within?

Rambling. Anyway, this morning, swimming with a new friend who is about 17 years sober, I was like, Ellen, isn’t not drinking enough? I whined, Can’t I just not think about not drinking for a while? Can’t I just not drink? And she was like, That’s exactly what you should do, and I think if you shared that at a meeting, you’d probably get applause. I’ve become tired of thinking about the steps, the confessions, the staring-down-of-self, the wonderings about God and a higher power and What It All Means. I have. So much so that I feel like I’d be bursting everyone’s AA bubble at meetings if I just came out and said, I don’t drink because drinking makes me feel shitty and hung over the next day. Isn’t that enough?

It is. I know it is. I’ll keep going to meetings, but for now, I’m just glad to FINALLY — after almost FIVE months of pretty solid sobriety — feel like I’ve reached the other side and am looking back over my shoulder, panting and breathing a sigh of relief.

Maybe I’ve given up on it working, on it fixing anything, on fixing anything/it? Good. Maybe I’m too tired, or vain (wine gut, hello?) to drink like I used to, which was alcoholically? Great. Maybe I’m just tired of fighting the urge — which actually stresses me out — that comes after the first drink and that I can’t resist so I give up before I try? Fine. Maybe one more hangover might actually, veritably kill me? Yes.

No matter what it is, I am not drinking and not really wanting to drink. And feeling safe in that. Looking back over the trail, marveling at how I got here. The wolf is at bay, licking the dust I kicked into its eye after running it down and stomping on its head.

Good night, friends, and thanks one and all.

AA meeting, you’re ruining my schedule; I have shit to do!

10 Nov

3:58 pm

ARG.

And, I’m at 30 days today! Yay for me. Now, can we move on?

For some reason, I don’t want to let people at AA know it’s my 30 days today. I might not. I guess it’s just that this is, and always will be — and is becoming more and more so — a private affair. No matter how much talking and sharing there is (I have only shared once here and that was at a women’s meeting; I talk to people AFTER the meetings, and I have made some friends, on a positive note), it’s still private, my own. I don’t care to let anyone know anymore that I’m sober/getting sober, based on the reaction I got this summer when I told people and they reacted negatively or with indifference. I also feel like I’ve come a long way, going to these meetings as a form of therapy: it really doesn’t matter to me if anyone knows, the only pat on the shoulder I need is from myself.

I’ll probably force myself to take the chip and let people know, but… I really don’t want to.

I guess I’m an impatient person; but, when one has a million things to do BESIDES DRINKING — and when one finally realizes this and wants to bust a move and do something about it — going to a meeting and listening to people talk about their “disease” and about “not drinking no matter what;” well, it just seems like a waste of time. And, I find myself having to schedule — and disrupt — my day around it. Like, by the time I get my day rolling, I’ve got to go to this meeting. Which when all is said and done will take three hours, not one, counting driving there, errands (why not, I’m en route), etc.

ARG.

Whatever. There are much larger things to bitch and moan about, but still. I want to do shit, not heal, damn it! 😉

So, another day where I will have done nothing, really, but hit a meeting and not drink. Well, I walked the dog to the ocean, which was gorgeous (and I was sober and not hung over, which, if I painfully recall, I was the last time I was down at this beach = oof, that hangover hurt like a mofo). In fact, sitting there is going to be a trigger for me, mainly because I want to be doing other stuff that does not involve drinking, talking about drinking, or not drinking.

90 meetings in 90 days? I am definitely counting them down, and don’t plan to go to any more after I hit 90. While it’s helping, I likely would not go if I was only doing it for myself. Luckily, I can think beyond my immediate “wants” again and just do it, even if I don’t really know why.

9 meetings today, 30 days today!

Now, can we move on?

Cravings and triggers…

9 Nov

12:44 am

are two separate realities. Who knew?

I feel like I’ve crested a hill that I never made it over before, and that is Craving Hill. Like, the cravings, rather than being a constant buzz in my ear, have become a semi-distant ringing. And, the cravings are distinct from the triggers. I always sort of thought that the trigger was the craving, or the craving was the trigger; not so.

(Bear with me; since I have been going to meetings and plugged into this “other world” of therapy and acceptance, my thoughts have been like massive explosions — expanding, convoluted, all over the place; shrapnel flying at me from all directions.)

My cravings are subsiding into memory. And if not, I slap my mental wrist so hard every time I think about giving up AGAIN before 90 days that they run fleeing, like a scolded dog, from my frontal cortex to the dark neuronal recesses where they fucking belong. That being said, I’m don’t want to jinx it. I keep waiting for them to come back, but they really haven’t. Yesterday, even when I was crying and feeling super-down and super-frustrated, I didn’t necessarily want to drink wine, i.e., I didn’t crave wine. I just wanted the feelings to go away.

Which brings me to my point: cravings are cravings, and they subside. Triggers are what’s behind the cravings, and they don’t! Well, I’m learning how to eliminate the triggers by doing something about them, OR, by learning how to take a deep breath, accept them, and plan to deal with them as soon as I can. For example, in order to not feel the trigger of existential inertia, I can send a pitch letter, or email someone at the university about a class, or make some headway on my long-shelved memoir (none of these things I’ve done yet, but that’s where the whole “plan to deal with them” part comes in!)…

At tonight’s meeting, I realized that most of my social angst comes from not being open, not doing the inviting. As an old roommate of mine used to say (this pertained to dating, which I was not doing any of in my late 20s), “You have to make yourself aVAILable.” She’d always emphasize and drag out the “VAIL” part, as if saying it like that would make me realize that I wasn’t doing so. I pretended to not know what she meant, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with actually answering my phone, or picking it up once in a while and making the call, or stopping driving around [cold west coast city] alone, aimlessly, when I could be like, sitting in on a class or having coffee or doing a million and three other amazing things in that town that I never did because I was so damned scared to make myself aVAILable.

I get it now, but it’s funny to watch my old habits rearing their ugly heads here. I feel a bit…voiceless…these days. Like, I’ve lost my voice in this getting-sober thing. Or, I forgot the words. What I think it is, is not having my usual points of reference: in the morning, wine to look forward to; at night, wine to actually drink. Without my sign posts, I don’t know the script!

I haven’t EVER socialized in a new city without booze. ALL of my new connections, whether professional or personal, have almost always started around “drinks.” I don’t know how to do it differently. Yet, I do. Pick up the phone. Grow a pair. Just do it.

Anyway, it felt good tonight to see that I’ve actually made a few friends at AA; like, these people are becoming my friends, more than just 2D cartoon characters whose sad faces don’t resemble mine. Here’s to some future social events where cravings and triggers are NOT invited! 😉

Btw, friends: 7 meetings down, 28 days sober! Woo hoo!

Hello, Higher Power, it’s me, Drunky Drunk Girl!

7 Nov

11:03 pm

Today. Jesus. I try, I really do, but I lose perspective when I’m PMSing. A’ll I’ll say is, the week or weeks before my period, I just go mad. Back pain flares, my sugar cravings intensify, and today, a week late, I’m crying on the hillside under a blazing sun in the middle of the day.

“God,” I commanded, with about as much serenity as a hammer, “fucking HELP.” Then, I stopped along the side of the road and cried. And, did I even make it look dramatic for, well, drama’s sake? NO. Did I sit down, hold my head in my hands, and weep uncontrollably? Nope. I just sort of mumbled and stumbled and decided to walk home because the tears and sunscreen were making my eyes burn.

Not three minutes later, as I’m descending the hill toward our house’s road, my neighbor drives up out of hers. So, my neighbor is one of the most “conscious” women I know, and at 29, one of the oldest souls I know. This girl is NEVER not radiating joy. I mean, it’s almost funny, and I don’t know if she was born that way or just works extra hard at cultivating nirvana — or both — but man, her energy is simple, direct, and uplifting. Anyway, I see my neighbor, and we chat for a few minutes, and then she drives away. Coincidence…or direct intervention by my as yet unknown HP? Hmm…

After that boost, I came home and was able to sit and just let my drama pass. And then I consciously chose to proceed with my day. It wasn’t easy, though. But, like someone in AA advised me to do, I allowed myself to experience the frustration (What am I doing here? What do I have to do that lends my time purpose?), agitation (Am I missing out on life in [cold east coast city]? I feel so far away from “things” there!), and sadness (Have I exited the ring for good? Can I put my boxing gloves back on and restart my professional life, or is it time to move on, at least to a different kind of writing?).

Anyway, the day got better. I spent a few hours at one of my favorite beaches, where I swam/snorkeled. It reminded me of why I’m here and what matters, which is appreciating the beauty of the water and coral, the ability to swim, and the bliss of being alone doing so.

And, I realized again that I am way too hard on myself. I get so down on myself for what I DON’T have in my life (kids, a house, a boring job). What about what I do have? Independence, intelligence, experiences galore, my life here, a budding (if I actually water it) freelance career, friends, love, AA, my sobriety and blossoming self-understanding beyond what I thought was possible even a few months ago. My present calm and acceptance. My future. I could like, go back to school for public health, anthropology, or marine biology; I could do some cool shit like research, travel, dig, dive along coral reefs. I could write, fund personal projects, rebuild a house, plant a garden, raise goats, volunteer and travel, have kids or adopt them! WHAT IS SO BAD ABOUT MY LIFE?

And, I had a somewhat strange realization (well, I had it after my AA meeting tonight, where I’ve decided to Take It Easy, come to meetings and not drink; and not beat myself up about not doing anything more than that at the moment): I am an alcoholic because I say I am an alcoholic. And, with the help of peeps in the meetings, who sound just like me, I am (almost) convinced of that. I don’t have to consult with others, compare myself to others, incorporate what anyone else says about me or my “problem” into my thoughts and reflections, dreams or goals. And, this is a good thing! I don’t have to feel bad about it because I’m not doing it out of spite, or as a way to cut people out; I’m doing it because I’ve arrived at a point along the way to enlightenment, which is, to me, a form of surrender = I can’t care anymore what anyone else does or thinks, and that includes what anyone thinks about my drinking and/or my being a drunk.

For a long time, up until, um, probably tonight, I’ve been wondering: am I really an alcoholic? I often look back and remember not ONE person except my current boyfriend telling me to go to AA. And, there were a lot of friends who either drank with me or knew I drank WAY too much, too often, and dangerously. I ask myself why was that? Was it because they were clueless, or had their own problems? Sure. Was it because they didn’t want me to get better as that meant losing a drinking buddy as well as losing someone who made them feel better about their own shenanigans? Probably. Was it because none of them really, truly thought I was an alcoholic, based on what seems to be a circulating presumption about the definition of “alcoholic” but what doesn’t come close to what it actually means? Yes.

You’re an alcoholic if you say you are, I’ve realized. And this, my friends, is a good thing to know! Before, I would have said, I’m NOT an alcoholic. Now, I know I am. What that means for me in the larger sense, I have yet to find out. What that means in terms of my future drinking habits, I have yet to find out. Meetings and hearing others like myself have made me see it for a fact. But, it’s my own conclusion that matters, and noting that will help me move forward dealing with it on my own without having to explain it to others, or involve them, on a certain level. I guess I’ve discovered boundaries. Yay!

Chocolate time. I’d love a glass of red wine, too. Le sigh.

AA is so neurotic; then again, so am I!

5 Nov

11:27 pm

It’s been too long since I’ve checked in. I spent about an hour the night before last writing a ranting post about how “AA makes me feel bad” and “AA makes me feel like a failure.” Humph. Glad I saved that one to draft.

In the past week, I’ve realized that AA is chock full of neurotic people, and NO WONDER we all drank! However, I can take what serves me and leave the rest, as so many people have told me. And, joining a 12-step group could be done simply for self-improvement’s sake; you don’t even have to be a drunk to benefit from the steps — it’s a way of life, a “moral-religious” philosophy that could be interpreted outside the context of drinking, I believe.

I’ve been to four meetings in four days (I plan to do 90; I said I would, and damn it, I will), and each time, the meeting has helped me. One of three things usually happens: I feel better after the meeting; I’ve met someone new or had a good convo (yesterday, I invited two new women friends on a hike with me after the morning meeting on the beach); or I’ve found yet one more reason to avoid fully engaging in AA, which is probably an excuse to drink (but, it makes me feel safer, so, for now, that’s OK!).

So, I like meetings, generally speaking. Like jogging, I feel better AFTER it’s over. 😉

On the other hand, I dread going. I don’t know why. Wait, yes, I do. I’d MUCH rather be going to an event, a social gathering, a party, to drink wine, ANYTHING but a group therapy session. Therapy is work. AA is work. I dread going, too, because it’s a lot of throwing around of platitudes. People talk in parables and platitudes and it makes me wonder, Do you really have any deeper understanding of these steps and your life sans booze than you did before you got into the program, or have you just adopted the program’s “language?” It’s hard to tell with most people at meetings down here on [beautiful island], as I’d say a good 70 percent are 10+ years sober. Yup.

Tonight, I was particularly irritated by the level of neuroticism in the room. Jesus FUCK, guys. Give it a rest! No wonder you drank! I mean, life is important, but it’s not THAT important. ESPECIALLY YOUR LIFE. God damn. And, the worst: the people who talk seem to have replaced shooting the shit over the bar with shooting it at an AA meeting. There’s a lot of ego in the room, ironically, and a lot of people simply LOVE to hear themselves talk, I guess. (Not to mention, it seems like 80 percent of the people at meetings here are from [cold east coast city], so EVERYONE has that accent…and some particularly [cold east coast city]-y life mantras, like, ‘The world revolves around me and my self-induced melodramatic frenzy.’)

Anyway, the topic was the 11th step, prayer and meditation. The discussion was interesting, but a lot of people subscribed to the idea of God infusing life with a sense of purpose. After thinking about why it vexed me so much, I concluded (for now): as a biologist at heart, I think that is actually short-changing nature! My “god” is nature, is the “is” around us, which consists of us, plants, animals, cells, protons, the galaxies, and all the physical and metaphysical forces within (like, the forces of gravity AND the “forces” of ESP, or synchronicity, or astral travel, or alien abduction). BUT, essentially, I don’t believe that because all this exists, there has to be a reason for it, let alone a sense of purpose for human beings. I think we create a need for one in our minds, and that’s why we also drink. But, that’s the problem with our big old brains, isn’t it?

On a positive note, I came to the realization of how important yoga/stretching is to me, or hiking. Yoga in particular allows me to focus out of my thoughts and into my body, which I also believe (thanks to my acupuncture session back in September — mind-blowing) is the source. The body is the holy ground, and only because you’re a living body can you connect to your higher self, to the higher reality that exists and that some people call God and that I am calling the “is” in this post. I didn’t share this, but wanted to. All in due time.

I could rant on and on, and I can say that I’m really getting annoyed by these meetings. But, I guess I want to see how it ends. I’m giving it 90 days, and then seeing what happens from there. And, I feel really good about that. I also have learned to simply let it fucking go. What happens in meetings stays in meetings, OK? Like passing rain clouds (I ran into one on my hike this afternoon), the meetings pass, the cravings pass, it all passes. And that’s a beautiful thing, actually.

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