Archive | January, 2013

16 weeks and…I have the choice to drink

30 Jan

9:23 pm

I do. I have the choice.

I would say this: AA wants you to believe that you don’t have a choice; I contend that you do. It’s just HARDER to not drink/be sober if you allow yourself that choice, daily. It forces you to confront your reasons (well, rationale) for thinking about drinking; why you “want” to drink; and then, allows you, if you’ve practiced bringing it to the forefront and not burying it under the guise of disease, to once again see for yourself that you don’t really want to drink…

you want to escape.

That’s it. You want to escape in order to feel better. You’re not out for cocktails with the girls, you’re out for blood. (Well, I never really even WANT to drink unless I’m feeling sad, depressed, anxious, or like my existential crises are making my head feel like it’s going to cave in. But, that’s just me, and that’s just me NOW. Back in the day, I remember going out, I just don’t remember drinking beer while out or even caring that I was drinking beer. That’s why they call it a progressive disorder–it progresses, and it changes the way your brain works.)

The problem is, drinking gets you drunk, and then hung over; nothing changes. These days, I keep having to remind myself: the side effect of drinking (too much) is getting drunky drunk–I don’t want that.

I like having the choice to drink. It makes it harder, for sure. I wouldn’t recommend it. But for me, burying the urge–shutting it down, turning it off–is like being a “dry drunk.” Relying on a “higher power” is also externalizing it–someone somewhere will do the mental work for you, is how I see it (for now, anyway). That’s not how it works, at least for me. By allowing myself the choice, it’s like I’m working my “sober mind” muscle out every day, as it really needs to be. I’m present, and while it’s not enjoyable, I come full circle instead of taking the detour. And I’m stronger in the face of tomorrow’s craving. (Unlike some people, I haven’t lost my desire to get buzzed; I don’t have the obsession to drink anymore, though.)

I think that I’m much more apt to call substance abuse a “disorder.” Alcohol use disorder. And, while it might be the case that you “broke” your brain when it comes to booze, disorder implies the ability to rewire; disease implies frayed or short-circuited beyond any further use.

I’m in a “terse” mood tonight, whatever that means! I’ve been working, and walking the dogs, and getting through my runs (with shooting pains all over my legs and a lower back that feels like two hot knives are stuck in it most of the time!), and well, living. Life. My latest editorial project was on quantum physics, and it took me back to my college days, a time that seemed so…fecund. Full of magical unknowns. A time when reading about that kind of stuff could excite me beyond anything I had or even knew I wanted. Now? Well…I’m not sure where wine fits into this tangent, but I remember using wine to put me back in that state of mind–excitement for the magical unknowns out there, waiting for me. I guess, to escape being cynical, knowing too much. I have to work at cultivating this level of excitement almost constantly. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to stop using wine, too: I expect so much, and when I don’t get it, I feel anxious, unnerved, sad, restless. I can’t always be “high on life.” I have to sleep. Some days will be crummy, or boring, or tedious. This, I do not like. I don’t want to accept it! And you know what, I probably NEVER WILL. 😉

Anyway, happy sober days, friends! 16 weeks and counting…

What a relief to be sober!

28 Jan

1:32 am

Ahh. Whew. What a relief to be sober!

Holy Christ, I’m SO glad to be *contained.* In containment. Maybe even stilted, as in, I’m not sure I could have had a conversation with a stranger tonight (up and down today, mainly due to my usual existential “drama” that seems to prohibit me, absolutely, from simply enjoying the moments). BUT, after seeing a few drunks doing what drunken people do, all I feel is relief: I have nothing to fear, I’m not in that place tonight, and, I DON’T EVER HAVE TO BE IN THAT PLACE AGAIN.

I wanted to drink today, but I knew I wouldn’t. I would get through the night. And, maybe it was a “God shot”: we went to a bar for dinner and there were several things that just made me cringe. One was a guy talking WAY too loudly, sharing WAY too much, touching WAY too frequently. I remember doing that, and watching it at 108 days sober made me feel…uncomfortable. From a distance, watching him, I felt edgy. Nervous, as if his state of mind was contagious and even after all my 108 days of work, I might catch the “drunk as shit” bug and start, well, acting like HIM. Like ME, when I was drunky drunk: out of control, embarrassing, invasive, and, about to get more of all three before too long. Ugh.

Then, we took off, and as we were heading out of the parking lot, I turned my head toward flashing lights. Two cops were pointing their flashlights on a dude who had either fallen or gotten into a fight; he was sitting on the curb smoking a cigarette, and blood was everywhere–on his legs and arms and face, on the ground, on his clothes, on his bare (were they bare?) feet. I’m guessing he was drunk (it’s the place to go out here, so lots of bars and lots of drunken people) and got into some drunken nonsense. Typically when I refer to “nonsense” and “shenanigans,” I’m sort of doing it tongue in cheek. This was not a joke to me tonight; it just made me feel even more nervous, and well, tired. TIRED. Drama, repercussions, head in hands, sighs all around. Apologies, things you can’t take back, waking up with that sinking feeling of dread at the base of your being, knowing that there had been simply, a lot of fucking bullshit. A whole lot of shit.

I’m so glad I’m outside that tangle, at least for now. I felt fearful for a while tonight, but I know that there is nothing to fear. I am not drinking, I will not be getting drunk, and there will be no drunken nonsense or shenanigans. I am going to watch part of a movie on quantum physics with my earbuds in, stay very still (safe) in my bed in the dark, and set my alarm; I am going to get up, brush my teeth, make coffee, and take the dogs for a walk, before starting on a bunch of editing I have to do for this week. I have an interview lined up with a marine biologist for tomorrow (maybe the real reason I’m edgy), and I will call him at the scheduled time. He already has the questions, so there is nothing to fear. And, all this will go down as planned–plus, without the extra TON of weight to carry by being hung over–because I did not drink wine tonight. Thank you, me. Thank you thank you thank you, higher me.

Choosing not to drink…because my life depends on it

26 Jan

4:01 pm

Literally. Having a life depends on me staying sober right now.

I’ve been seriously thinking about drinking the past few days/weeks. I mean, why not? The other night in bed, I got a text from a friend, who is 40, I guess will be 41 this year, who just popped out her second kid. As usual, I felt the wind-tunnel-in-my-gut feeling, and then, the curtain of sadness. It’s brief, and irrational–I’ve done some awesome shit in my life, right?–but…it got me thinking: I have to make some decisions.

Moreover, I have less than a year and a half; said another way, I have 16 periods left in which to get preggers.

It’s not so much that the possibility of not having kids of my own makes me sad, it’s the fact that I LET so much time pass, so many opportunities. Did I let life roll me over? Did I stay with men who were noncommittal, like me, out of fear…or was that just the way it went, was supposed to go? I mean, I am definitely of the pre-online dating generation, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t have gotten on the bandwagon in 2005 or 2006 and like some of my friends, made a list of “to do” and “to have,” and got on with it. Like picking a career, or a place to live, or a job, should I have prioritized having kids in this way? Instead, I wasted a lot of time bouncing around in my 20s, and didn’t really pick a career (one that, of course, I’m no longer happy with!) and start on it until my 30s. How could I have both invested most of my 30s making a career for myself in journalism AND finding a man and having kids? It just seems that no matter what decisions you’ve made, you’re going to end up regretting your choices in some way(s).

I think I’ve spent the past decade, at least, drowning out the inevitable, NOT making a choice and then drinking to avoid the entire affair (not choosing, feeling bad about myself for not wanting to deal with not choosing). Now, with less than a year and a half until I turn 40, I wonder: is it really too late? Could I have made any one of the shitty relationships I was in work, back then, if I had chosen to have kids? Would I have picked different men, or more importantly, would I have stood up for myself and forced us to decide? It’s hard to tell, but one thing I do know: drinking played a major role in where I am today. It’s not that I’m unhappy to be here by any stretch, but I think if I had gotten sober earlier and stopped using wine to basically avoid these so-called “hard” and “scary” decisions… I don’t know.

I’m a biologist; I know that I’m not unique, reproductively-speaking. Every year counts, once a woman gets past 35. Past 37, every month. I don’t think I want to be childless at 50, I really don’t. I don’t know why, and I’m not sure I can even stomach the thought of giving up all the dreams I still have in order to raise kids, but… I don’t know.

What I do know is, these things can’t wait to be examined, just shy of 90 days sober or not. At 20, I remember having All These Options. In a way, I still think of myself as 20, or 25, or 30…not pushing 40! How do I reconcile the sadness of realizing that my options are vastly different now, if not limited, and the necessary acceptance of this truth? I have to accept it in order to move on, but more immediately, in order to not freak out and start drinking alcoholically again.

Happy weekend?

Binge drinking and brain damage

25 Jan

12:00 pm

This is really depressing, mainly because, theoretically speaking, I shouldn’t be able to form ANY long-term memories at this point (if this article is correct in saying that the damage occurs in the hippocampus, which is where short-term memories are converted to long-term memories elsewhere in the brain):

Effects of Binge Drinking Almost Immediate

It’s hard to ignore the FACT of the matter, which is, even IF you’ve gotten sober, you’ve still got brain damage and you’ve still got an increased risk of dementia in your later years. I almost feel like drinking over it–why not? The damage has been done.

ANYHOO, it’s sort of a rainy day down here and I’ve got work to do, and my biggest concern as of the moment is my lower back (burning pain today–ack!) and NOT my hippocampus. Alas, I’ve got some blog posts to dazzle you guys with:
1. Weird and Awkward
2. Drinking is a disorder, not a disease
3. The continuum of “alcoholism” is like the continuum of sexuality–we’re all on it, somewhere
4. ?

See you later!

Pushing my sober boulder uphill past few weeks

23 Jan

4:47 pm

So, as you may know, I’m going on 15 weeks of sobriety tomorrow–90 days plus 2 weeks. And, let me tell you, the past 2 weeks have been hard. I’ve felt so lethargic, mainly due to the slightly overwhelming number of things I now feel I have to start on. Resume.

And, I’ve been leading full days, too (well, full for me right now): walking the dogs, working out, closing several editing projects. Yet…there’s so much more to do!

Now that I’m sober…I should (want to) start some “beat” science and health reporting around the island. (In process today. We’ll see where my footsteps lead…)

Now that I’m sober, I should (want to) re-apply to some public health master’s programs and/or re-visit my deferment at a school down south.

Now that I’m sober, I should (want to) invite peeps down here to vacay, and make a trip back up to [cold east coast city] to reconnect.

Now that I’m sober, I should (want to) start on/re-visit some personal writing projects; I’d be heartbroken if I didn’t at least TRY to do something with/about them. (The truth will set you free, right?)

Now that I’m sober, I should (want to) come to some sort of…resolution?…about starting a family. I sense it’s something I can no longer reasonably put off. (Well, maybe one more year… 😉 )

Now that I’m sober…the list goes on and on.

I want to and feel excited about the future and the work that lies ahead, but I’m tired, too. Mentally. I guess staying sober IS a full-time job, mentally and emotionally. It has been for me. At the same time, I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels, spending all my time getting up the energy to do stuff and not executing. I want to, sure, but my body is like, Oh, what? I guess it’s still Fake It Till Ya Make It hour, but I’m wondering, when does that turn into Make It?

So, I’ve been pushing that boulder, and having no time or energy really to think about drinking–the more I think at all, the more things I come up with to put on my to-do list. So it goes. Sigh.

Then, I force myself into “mantra mode:”

One day at at time
Give your MIND time to heal, and not just your body
You’ve accomplished SO MUCH getting sober, probably the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do–so be proud, take stock, and build on that
Be patient
Stay on track

The last is a big one. Just because my thoughts and feelings are bringing me into the center of a mental black hole, doesn’t mean I have to let them. Sit back and watch them pass. They will. And, don’t react to anything. Just sit back, grind it out if need be (you can do it, you really can), and let them go. And, they will. Annnnnnd, then it’s back to your regularly scheduled PLUGGING and PLODDING, which are, by the way, AMAZING programs. Have you seen them? If not, you should. 😉

Time to get to work, I suppose. Poor old me, with all these CHOICES and OPPORTUNITIES. (For me, remembering that I bring on a lot of my stress due to overthinking and overplanning, due to expectations and self-judgments–it helps to remember that all these ideas and choices and things to do are GOOD, nothing is BAD, and no one is out to get me, beat me, or otherwise hurt me. Unless we’re talking about journalistic colleagues and people I’ve hurt while drunk, but I’m going to ignore the fact that I have very real enemies and pretend everyone is riding a unicorn with sparkly teeth, just like mine.)

Learning to enjoy and not overthink

22 Jan

2:16 am

Lately, I haven’t had the time to continually think about drinking. I have a bunch of posts I’d like to write, and comments I’d like to make, but staying “here,” in this head space–eh, it’s a bit much. Unnecessary, at some point, to keep beating a dead horse, y’know?

I feel “healed” in a certain sense. I don’t go to meetings anymore, and that’s been a great help in allowing me to feel normal again, and not diseased or “broken.” Grasp-y. Overexposed. Judged. That mentality had a huge negative impact on me–in addition to feeling like a piece of shit who was always drunk, I constantly felt ashamed, helpless, and broken, and it was exacerbated by this constant rumination/reflection on being ashamed, helpless, and broken! I’m learning to accept that it’s perfectly OK to not like AA. And, that I don’t have to “save” others in order to be and stay sober. I really don’t. I can, but that’s my choice when/if I want to be of that type of service. It’s a lot of work, being there for someone when you’re your own full-time job. I don’t have to do it, any of it. AND THAT’S OK!

In fact, I think I’m going to have a Big Book burning ceremony soon, just to sort of cleanse that (relatively negative, but not entirely) experience from my bones.

I also feel like I need to focus on training myself to simply enjoy, for three reasons:
– stressing ruins the moment, and all that the moment entails
– stressing takes the “play” out
– stressing messes up my hormones, making things even more unpredictable

I have a lot on my to-do list for 2013 and am feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all, BUT, I’m going to try to keep it simple, take it easy, and stop overthinking. And, drinking? Yep, I’d love a glass of wine (or, would I?), but I have too much to do and being altered or hung over would simply waste more time. It really is that simple–for now. The sober “car”/boulder is rolling, and rolling fast, so watch out! 😉

Off to bed. So tired after trying to understand all the amaze-balls dialogue in ‘Lincoln’ tonight. Tony Kushner is a god.

Healing is boring

21 Jan

2:42 am

Or, maybe I’ve just let it bore me, and therefore, define me as “bored.” Who knows, but I’m ready to rock and roll on out of this “thinkin’ about drinkin'” phase.

I feel a lot like my old self, now that I’m well past 90 days–made it to 100 last night. I’ve been having some GREAT days, with lots of coffee, running, swimming, dog walking, cooking, rastafarian food fair-going… What I mean is, I’m not sure how others feel, but quitting drinking has allowed me to literally go back to who I was. Where I left off, so to speak. Ready work, to play, to run around like a chicken with my head cut off again.

Really?, I secretly dig at myself. Or, is it the opposite? I don’t know, and that’s where I’m going to simply have to say, I don’t know myself right now and I’m going to have to live around that fact. Live anyway, y’know? Work, dream, plan, move forward, minute to minute, day to day.

See, I used to have a lot of well-defined needs, wants, and goals. Now, however, I feel like I’m not sure which, if any, of those needs, wants, and goals are even of any value! I think quitting drinking, actually, is but ONE SYMPTOM of the transition that is staring me in the face, like a disease: the disease of mid-life, of mortality. I could not both survive this disease and its symptoms AND drink, so I had to quit. And, now that I’ve quit, I see this crisis for what it is–a lot of work to do, a lot of information to parse. Sigh. I don’t even know if I’m making any sense, which is why I haven’t written in a few days.

All I know is, I’m feeling my way forward, with blinders on, and it’s NOT because I’m drunk and confused. And, I’m starting to feel like my old self, and it doesn’t mean that I want to down two bottles of wine. I might, if given the chance, though; but that’s MY CHOICE.

(Yes, this is the problem of having to go to bed sober; thoughts are still whirring, a lot of them negative, but only YOU can turn them off because you realize they’re meaningless; you can’t use The Wine, and it never did a good job anyway.)

Oh, shoot, I think I just outed myself

18 Jan

3:17 am

Is that inherently a bad thing? Not necessarily. I’ve just, well, sort of come to rely on this space as my own private Idaho, as it were.

Oh, well. Moving along, eh?

Happy Friday, kids! I know, I know, I’m off to bed now. Sober…per usual. (knock, knock)

Not PAWS, but maybe PTSD?

16 Jan

3:16 pm

Well, you guys have got me thinking again–so, of course, I have to follow up on my last post.

Lately, I’ve been feeling burnt out by the littlest of things, the slightest pressures, the shortest to-do lists. Or, maybe the to-do lists aren’t that short, but my energy definitely does not match my ambition. I no longer seem to have the get-up-and-go that I used to when I was drinking. Or, rather, the go-go-go, and chase-chase-chase.

I think I was simply running on fumes when I was on The Wine. Like, my adrenaline was constantly up, and my immune system was running on overdrive–no wonder I could do and go and stay up and drink, and it seemed like I felt much more alive than I do now. Or, was I just wired? Actually, I was probably a nervous wreck, and my body was about to go from saying “Hello, we can’t keep you amped up like you’re escaping from a pack of hyenas much longer!” to “We quit, bitch!”.

The more I think about it, the more I don’t really buy PAWS, or, post-acute-withdrawal syndrome. The main issue I have, after having quit drinkin’, is getting used to not being fueled by the anticipation of getting drunk. I have to say, it is still a struggle for me to not feel anxious, sometimes panicky, and often sad whenever I realize (daily, still sometimes more than once a day) that I can’t get buzzed. I used wine as a motivating factor for so long (i.e., If I can get through this day, then I can have wine), as a way to combat the stress and fatiguing aspects of my life. Now that it’s not even an option, what is my go-to source of strength? What becomes my motivating factor? I mean, at this point, I don’t NEED to work full-time and/or compete and achieve in the “real world;” I sort of dread the day I have to go back to that shit. What I’ve come to understand is that while there are plenty of people who use substances to propel them on their career paths, I cannot–and don’t want–to be one of them anymore.

And, while I know about most of the physical damage I’ve caused to my body, I cringe–stricken, to an extent, as if I have a mild case of PTSD–at some of the things I’ve done and lived through while blacked out drunk. Waking up in bed with a stranger? Spending entire evenings out, with only fleeting glimpses of what I might have said or where I might have gone? Cursing out strangers (or friends, or bartenders) on every other street corner on the LES? Getting into a fight, being shoved, and breaking my arm as I crashed my shoulder onto the sidewalk? And then, passing out and having to deal with it the next day, so hung over (and in such excruciating pain) I could barely keep my eyes open as I stumbled from ER to ER, trying to find one where the line wasn’t hours long? Spending nights (on more than one occasion) in jail, alternately screaming belligerently at the cops through my blackout and curled up in the fetal position as I waited for my court papers to come through; communing for days with 20 other women over a non-working toilet, rotten cheese sandwiches and sour milk, and gymnastics mats that served as our “beds” in a 40-degree holding cell? YIKES. I could go on and on.

Moving back to [cold west coast city], pining for a romantic relationship, for friendships, for an old self–all of which had been thoroughly extinguished years earlier (and, if they hadn’t, DEFINITELY flitted out to a mass of dank coals during the ensuing 18 months that I continued living there)? Drinking entire weekends away, so that my first encounter with daylight was at 3 pm on a Sunday, when I would walk to the Safeway to get more wine? Drinking several times for entire weeks at a clip: commuting while drunk, working while drunk, passing out in my cube while drunk? Drinking to obliterate my nerves at having to go back to work the next day, not sure what my coworkers heard or saw, not sure how the shuttle driver deposited me at the train station because I had blacked out hours before leaving work and don’t remember anything of the commute home? I could go on. And on and on and on.

Post-traumatic stress disorder? Yup, I think I got it.

But you know what? I’m through it, on the other side, and I feel great! Stronger, calmer, and much more capable of taking care of myself. I obviously was taking my anger out on the wrong people, including me, but, that’s behind me now. I am onto a better–and very different–way.

And, all this is to simply illustrate that yes, these things can depress and/or overwhelm, but we get past them, forgive and forget for our own sakes, and deal with the memories of how they made us feel. Slowly, but surely. And in our own time and graces.

All in due time, I keep telling myself. All in due time…

I think I might have PAWS

15 Jan

1:53 pm

And, we’re not talkin’ about the cute kind! (I have baby giraffe hooves, remember?)

PAWS = post-acute-withdrawal syndrome. The symptoms can range from everything from depression to anxiety to fatigue to “physical coordination problems” (uh, had that covered BEFORE I quit), for months or years after you stop drinking.

Say what?! YEARS?!?! Come ON. No, no, no, no, no, no, no!

First, I have to go through withdrawal, then I have to make it 90 days, and now, I have to keep going through withdrawal, indefinitely? NOT FAIR. (Well…you did get yourself into this mess, Drunk Drunk Girl; now you have to get yourself out.)

I’m finally, after 90 days, starting to feel less moody, and less pouty, when it comes to drinking. To feel less depressed when I tell myself that once again, No, you cannot drink tonight, or Yes, you have to at least try to convince yourself that this (everything) might be even a little bit fun without wine. Le sigh. I’m beginning to know–in my heart AND mind–that drinking equates to not getting things done, which is what I really want right now. Those to-do lists are simply popping, and I finally want to dive in, like I used to.

However, my body is not really wanting to dive in, let’s just say. I feel TIRED a lot. Like, I only have a finite amount of both mental and physical energy, and then I have to stop and go to bed. My days could very well consist of eating, walking the dogs, and resting/sleeping/zoning. My “go go go” tenacity seems gone, zapped. Like, I cannot IMAGINE, really, holding down a full-time job right now, let alone living again the lifestyle I was in my drinking days: up at 6 am, in bed by 2 am, with an 18-hour day, a full meal, and two bottles of red wine to digest in those 4 hours before I had to get up and do it all over again. I’m OVER the rat race, for sure, but it has a lot to do with realizing that I don’t want to, let alone can’t, spend the next 20 years vying for prizes that mean next to nothing to me, alongside people who are as unhealthy in their outlook on life as I had become.

I DO wonder, though, if my soreness (here, there, everywhere) is not related to too much artificial sweetener (i.e., Diet Coke). I read that somewhere, and it stuck. Lately, my knees, both of ’em, really hurt when I run. I went for a 4- or 5-mile hike yesterday–and am BURNT today. Jesus! I used to (like, less than a year ago) be able to do 10-, 12-mile hikes–and drink to blackout afterward–and feel fine when it came to my muscles and joints. Hmm… I wonder if there wasn’t good stuff in wine that was actually buffering me against the inevitable decline toward old age. 😉

In any case, it’s much better than it was even a month ago, but the physical fatigue is concerning. As is my continuing desire to emulate my dogs (wake, walk, eat, sleep, repeat).

Does anyone have anything to add or contribute? It seems that the defining characteristics of PAWS and its “progression” or “remission” are about as nebulous as the definition of alcoholism, so I’m all ears (or paws–har har)!

96 days and not lookin’ back…right now, anyway. 😉


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