Now I chase the reprieve, not the buzz

8 Jul

11:56 am

There was a very brief period–an interlude–either around the time I quit or right before or after, where I didn’t want to drink. I mean, Didn’t Want To Drink. I mean, no idea what drinking was. It was like, I had never drunk, so I didn’t even know that there was something to turn to! It lasted for five hours, to be exact, and it was the most enlightening experience I’ve had to date with regard to cravings–they are not invariably hardwired forever into our brain circuitry.

It was like I had been transported back to my childhood, when there was nothing to do and nothing to try to do. There was nothing to think about, mull over, ruminate on; nothing to escape from, nowhere to go anyway. Life just was, and you just lived it. And it was Good. Good in the way that you don’t know it’s good: the world is round, spinning on its axis, inside the meteor belt, millions upon millions of planets and solar systems and galaxies and clusters of galaxies doing their thing. I could look up at the Milky Way (my dad was a sailor, a merchant marine to be exact, and he relished pointing out the stars) and go, Wow, and Ooh, and Aah, and these were my only thoughts. No, What am I supposed to be doing with myself? No, Arg, I don’t know, and I’m such a loser because I don’t know! No wanting to escape, to be relieved of the responsibility. For what? To be alive? To figure out the meaning of life?

I think when we stop drinking, a lot of us turn to AA. This isn’t a bad thing, but it forces us to focus on our “problem” and our “issues.” To step up and embrace our “responsibilities.” Aside from the fact that I believe in rehabilitating my relationship to (with?) wine, I’ve come to see this as one of the main reasons I stopped going to meetings. We drank, a lot of us, because we had too many responsibilities. We drank, a lot of us, because our egos had already been crushed–by ourselves!

I’ve spent so much of my time trying to “save the world” (in my head, at last)–overachieving, reaching and grasping for what can only be called validation from the outside. And, when our society (Western?) is built upon this ideal, who hasn’t been there? We are socialized to believe that we have to work hard, have kids and sacrifice, play even harder; compete, judge, and compare; self-improve; and yes, even figure out the meaning of life. Um…OK.

I grew up an introvert. I grew up the twin of an extrovert. I have always been artistic, and therefore, likely pre-wired to be self-centered, ambitious, and controlling. I have had to work not on feeling empathetic, but expressing empathy, mainly because I am shy. I have had big problems in my life with being ashamed, secretive, and self-loathing. Depression followed, but that has, I know now, alternated between being influenced by my innate character to being influenced by my choices and my reaction to those choices.

Without going into too much detail, I drank because I could not express myself, would not allow myself to express myself; I drank because it assuaged my depression; I drank because it stifled my existential panic; I drank to procrastinate being creative, which is an expression of fear (of failure, of success, who knows?). I drank because I felt excluded by my introversion, by my smarts, by my androgyny. I drank I drank I drank.

The point is, didn’t we all? Is a loathing of self inseparable from being human? Don’t we all chase a buzz–the buzz of getting what we want, of “fixing” our desire? Mine happened to be a desire to be more comfortable in my own skin. We are shy, or embarrassed–why? I have no idea where my discomfort comes from; my brother never had it. If he did, it was minimal. Maybe it’s an irrational hatred, archetypal? I don’t know.

What I guess I’m trying to say is, instead of chasing a fleeting “buzz” called my “fix” on wine, now I’m striving–chasing sounds lame–for that reprieve, that interlude of light, of fancy, of play. I REMEMBER that it exists. I remember not wanting wine, and I remember not associating wine with reward, or pleasure, or escape, or reprieve. In fact, if there is anything that I would put outside the realm of ordinary, it would be this experience. It was, I have to say, like God rained some fairy dust down on me and allowed me to see it–to remind me that once upon a time, wine wasn’t a part of my world. And, I did just fine. Can I do just fine again? Yes. YES.

9 Responses to “Now I chase the reprieve, not the buzz”

  1. eileen July 8, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    great post. and so true. and so similar, ” I drank because I could not express myself, would not allow myself to express myself; I drank because it assuaged my depression; I drank because it stifled my existential panic; I drank to procrastinate being creative, which is an expression of fear (of failure, of success, who knows?). I drank because I felt excluded by my introversion, by my smarts, by my androgyny. I drank I drank I drank.”
    …. my drinking intensified when a, i had huge (childhood related) emotional pain come up and b, i had major physical pain going on. eventually, my drinking became problematic. and i knew it was. and i wanted to do something about it.
    i went to aa because it was (is still) the only game in the small city i live in. and some things didn’t sit right. fatalistic, condemning. when i had my various ‘slips’ and thought, oh, i must not be ‘working’ it right, let me get a ‘sponsor’… i was shamed about having FEELINGS. i was actually told by one that ‘your emotionality makes people not want to talk to you’. ‘all i hear you cry about is your family’. i was told that my (legitimate) grief (which had been stuffed for years as a survival mechanism/coping skill ‘learned’ in childhood) was ‘self pity’.
    despite feeling uncomfortable with some aa concepts, my own world (which had shrunk due to my self-medicating) did benefit from things i heard at meetings.i did gain perspective by hearing stories both milder and more severe than mine, as far as consequences go. i did gain social connections and a sense of self worth from being invited in ‘fellowship’ type experiences outside the meetings. i did gain some income through being commissioned for paintings (by people i met at meetings). Would i have gotten commissions just by being exposed to any group of people? probably. but i had learned to ignore my own feelings for so long that i felt intense gratitude for the people that gave me tissues, listened to me, comforted me, shared their own stories with me.
    so, yeah, having recently joined team 100, i thought it might be good and helpful to attend a few meetings to have face to face exchange. and for the most part, it has been. people i’d seen in the past seemed genuinely glad to see me; asked how i’d been, smiled, and hugged. But it’s funny… after only a few days of reading a lot of soberblogger posts, i am highly attuned to what i want to ‘tune in’ to at meetings. and what bits of chaff i will choose to let fly in the wind. i especially put into play the 12 rights for newcomers just last night…

    (forgive me if i haven’t learned how to do hyperlinks correctly yet, i’m only 4 days into the blog world)

    Last night’s meeting topic was ‘character defects’ and how they never go away. It brought to MY mind the cherokee legend of two wolves…

    An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

    “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

    The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

    … as opposed to the ‘i ask the higher power to take away my defects FOREVER’, it puts power squarely in one’s own hands, heart, mind and actions.

    Shares from others included a recognizing that many times the way we live has developed as survival and coping mechanisms, that we eventually learn are not for the greater good.

    I mentioned how the concept of a deficit is much healthier than a defect. having a deficit is like being a plant that is missing a certain nutrient, and therefore has stunted growth, as opposed to being ‘defective’ and therefore not any good. my ‘survival’ mechanisms were completely based on discounting my own sense of reality. (when you grow up with abusive parents, and get hit more and harder if you cry, you LEARN… to feel nothing. so as to keep yourself from further damage. you learn to be numb. and consequently, ignore signs that something is not good for you.

    i also mentioned that this is why the numbing power of alcohol became such a companion for me. (and it was after YEARS of no drinking… i used dance as my medicine for a very long time. )

    i concluded my share with the idea that we eventually learn ‘which wolf to feed’… and how sharing with others helps take stock of that and redirect the food supply when it’s off track… just before the end of the meeting someone else made a point of calling out my ‘share’ and saying, yeah, i have a better word for your learnings. it’s called depravity.

    now, i don’t know what the heck this person meant. clearly they were writing their own set of reality checks. but i do know that in the past i would have felt some kind of wounded. and misunderstood. and now…. well. i really don’t care what that person says or thinks. because i have other sources of mental and emotional health and balance than just ‘the rooms’.

    looking forward to staying with team 100 ad infinitum. 🙂 namaste’!

    and, just because i saw this movie yesterday, i will put a trailer here.

    not trying to be a zealot or an evangalist or anything of the sort… but there’s some stuff in this movie that i think ougta be a requirement for just about everyone.

    “Ex-addict Frank Ferrante is a 54-year-old, overweight Sicilian-American from Brooklyn with hepatitis C and some bad habits. He also wants to fall in love one more time before he dies. MAY I BE FRANK documents Frank’s transformation as he stumbles into the aptly-named vegan Café Gratitude, and, over 42 days, begins a life-changing journey during which he is coached physically, emotionally and spiritually by three twenty-something staff members on the path to enlightenment. Challenged by years of addiction, fatigue, and family dysfunction, Frank’s quest for a healthier lifestyle is both tense and touching. Through Frank’s metamorphosis, we witness the powerful effects of change upon one person’s life, and the potential we all have to find the most important love of all–love of ourselves.”

    • Drunky Drunk Girl July 9, 2013 at 4:12 am #

      This is all so great…thank you!!!

      I love the Cherokee myth; such wisdom. For me, that pretty much sums up the choice we have, to feed the positive or the negative in ourselves.

      I would say you have an extraordinary grasp on why you drink, and on the self-medicating aspect to it. If meetings help, great; but don’t let people like that guy deter you from probing, feeling, and questioning–THIS is how you get and stay sober.

      Huge HUGS! Thanks for the links…!

      • eileen July 11, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

        i started writing a response yesterday; which got hung up because of a huge storm that downed cable and electric lines, so it is lost in cyberspace. i think i started saying, after only a few days i feel like I should be writing a blog… but i am sort of raw and fragile and not very sure of my ability to be consistent or to say something meaningful (of course, this is the same kind of mindset that has put a halt to art making… )

        i am writing after having also read your posts regarding being a scientific writer; there’s a little parallel cos i was trained as a medical/scientific illustrator… which i actually haven’t done as a full time job in some time; but am considering doing again because being freelance and doing everything just hasn’t been producing the quality of life (and self esteem!) i would prefer. … but i know a lot has to do with believing you are worth a certain amount, and then asking for it…

        and i think, until i have a good chunk of clean days, my self worth will secretly be sabotaged by the voice that says, see… you can’t keep a promise to yourself. you aren’t worthy, after all. (the bad wolf)

        and this is where the ‘may i be frank’ movie has been stirring the pot, because i have researched mr frank and his story AFTER the film… i don’t want to spoil the film, or the ending, (which begs a curious mind and heart to investigate), but i want to give a link to a talk he gave as it is such a down to earth viewpoint, without dogma and cliche’…

        “… when you take out… substances… then you have patterns. what happens when you take the booze away from a drunken horse thief? you have a sober horse thief.”

        “There’s only one thing you have to change… everything.”

        We’re here to connect.

        interestingly, i posted a link to the movie trailer in the local aa community’s ‘closed’ facebook group… out of 143 members, only one has clicked ‘like’. eh.

        and this (thing about self love) leads me back to something i used in the past (LONG before i had a drinking issue, i used this… and i was religiously disciplined (without being Religious) about journalling, artist dates & exercises .. i was full of patience and ‘allowing’… i made little 3×5 cards with quotes like ‘Think Mystery, not Mastery’ and put them all over… in the fridge, in my car, in the bathroom cabinet…

        used copy: $2.23… can’t go wrong. use it as one of the ‘little congratulatory gifts’ belle mentions, it will be a gift that keeps on giving. (ps if you already have it forgive my trumpeting… )

        Julia, btw, is ‘recovered’, discovered, uncovered, whatever you want to call it. she doesn’t drink anymore. I hate labels. but sometimes it is necessary to name something and therefore have power over it because of the naming.

        “Think of yourself as an accident victim walking away from the crash: your old life has crashed and burned; your new life isn’t apparent yet. You may feel yourself to be temporarily without a vehicle Just keep walking.”

        btw, during the year i was ‘doing’ the book
        (as opposed to ‘reading’ the book)
        … i was working full time w kids in a treatment center, i made 4 quilts, took my first night classes in design/illustration, auditioned for and got scholarship money to study opera part time, .. AND auditioned for a community theater play (where i got a lead) and a community opera group production (where i was in the chorus). kind of unbelievable how much stuff happens when you feel like you have a coach in your corner. what julia’s book did was give me permission to say YES to things, as well as give me courage to look at dark spots inside. (and … ta-daaaa… process them through writing!!!)

        i wanted to find some cool inspiring quote but i need to do stuff. and what i just saw was ‘less is more’. but i will leave this post as is. 🙂

  2. jenniekillough July 8, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    “Without going into too much detail, I drank because I could not express myself, would not allow myself to express myself; I drank because it assuaged my depression; I drank because it stifled my existential panic; I drank to procrastinate being creative, which is an expression of fear (of failure, of success, who knows?). I drank because I felt excluded by my introversion, by my smarts, by my androgyny. I drank I drank I drank.” – Me too! 🙂 I just found your blog a few days ago… I could have written much of what you are writing about! Nice to find someone who I relate to so well 🙂

    • Drunky Drunk Girl July 9, 2013 at 4:13 am #

      So glad you connected with it! It’s easier for me to write about these somewhat nuanced “reasons” I drank than it is to talk them out, so…glad someone is there with me!

      • Jason B. July 11, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

        I, like you, am currently underway with a blog site that I will be using as a way to help myself stay sober. I hope that I am able to continue connecting with other recovering alcoholics/addicts in a way that will allow me to find new ways of remaining sober while possibly helping another person achieve that same goal. You have a good spirit about you and I look forward to hearing more. However, I am one of the A.A. recovery tracks because for me it helps to focus on my problems and have that continued accountability in my life. I believe that God is the true release from our active alcoholism or prison of the mind. Through God all things are made new and I remain one of those things. I love to hear stories and suggestions from other people because I believe that it is through those interactions that God works. Keep up the great work! Sober and living since Sept. 12, 2011

      • Drunky Drunk Girl July 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

        Wonderful! I think AA can be truly powerful for some people. Keep up the great work…!

  3. Mrs D July 9, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    I was just leaving a comment over on Paul’s blog (Message in a Bottle) about how I talk about my ‘beloved wine’ and describe a pull to drink as a ‘pang’ which smacks of romance.. I used to think that I love love loved drinking wine but honestly…. the longer that I live sober I now see that what I love is happy contentment and fun, and those things I have without the wine. I thought it was the wine giving me that, but it was all bullshit. Loving your writing right now, lots of deep thought provoking stuff… great brain you’ve got inside that head of yours, thanks for sharing xxxx

    • Drunky Drunk Girl July 17, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

      Did I already say THANK YOU and give you a huge, massive virtual hug? Love your comments, Mrs. D. xx

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