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Epilogue; prologue–ONE YEAR SOBER!

19 Mar

11:44 am

Some of you were like, Hey, how come you saved the best for last? Well, of course, I wasn’t going to gloss over my ONE YEAR SOBER “BIRTHDAY” today!

First of all, WOWIE, thank you ALL for your awesome, supportive comments. Second, I must clarify: I have two brothers; the one with the girlfriend is NOT the same as the one who is getting married in May. So, I am not the photog at her wedding…

Anyway, the epilogue to yesterday’s “drama in my club” is this:

When midnight came, I admit, I was still exorcising my anger and bitterness by journaling. I did actually get to some good points–great points–about how I feel now and what I get from being sober. I re-read an entry I wrote last year, on this very day, when I was sitting on my couch, passed-out-ish, throwing up onto the towel strategically placed (by my boyfriend) on my chest, before stumbling into bed in a blackout. That day last March, I had nearly six months of continuous sobriety. I have not drunk since then–a full, continuous year. It took me almost two years of trying, but I got here. (Mind you, and this is important, I started trying to control my drinking all the way back in, oh, 2004! I was blacking out then, things got really bad in grad school–I even tried AA in 2006–and I began consciously trying to go for days in a row without drinking starting in 2007–I made it 30 days once, back in the summer of 2008, but more often, I’d only go for 3 to 5 days before going back to my bottle.)

What triggered me?, I wondered, which is why I went back to re-read. Well, it was stuff that would probably not trigger me today, stuff that would not carry as much emotional weight: feeling isolated, feeling attacked for being a “hermit,” which I admit I had become (like, hey, does ANYONE think outside their own asses these days; my landlady literally physically jumped me when I got home that day, scolding me about how I ignore her and I can’t get away this time–needless to say, that woman has CODA issues, and I have rightfully decided to keep my distance), feeling stressed (I was running every day, almost 6 miles one day, 3 miles the next–too much). I had to baby myself then, which makes sense–in early sobriety, everything hurts your raw nerves; nothing makes sense. While my mind is still a buzz of thoughts, back then, everything triggered me to anxious and obsessive thinking.

But, we get through this shit, our minds calm down, and the obsession to drink leaves. Not entirely, but there was this shift that happened for me around 15 or 16 months (I started my journey, a first attempt at getting sober, in June 2012, so this was August of last summer), where I just stopped wanting to drink around every turn. Stopped automatically always assuming/believing that drinking equals relief, escape, fun. Now? Well, that has died down even more, and I see that it’s a real improvement; the thinking goes away. You learn how to live without the reward of alcohol. In short, your mind bounces back. And from what I’m seeing now, your mind not only bounces back, but it keeps going higher and higher!

The epilogue to yesterday’s message from the one brother’s girlfriend is this:

I DID call him, and we DID talk. I was nervous, and upset, but I got through it. And, it left me feeling VERY ambivalent. He basically insinuated I was lying about any message having been sent–she denied it (she probably forgot because she was blacked out when she sent it), and he believed/defended her–which pissed me off to no end. We are NOT that kind of family; there has never been this kind of “he said/she said” drama. That comes from her. Anyway, it bummed me out, and I expressed my frustration, that I cannot do more than I’ve done. And, he continued to keep his list, you know, the one with all the reasons on it to hate me, to hold up his (her?) grudge. And I was like, Dude, I’m not saying you can’t hate me, what I’m saying is, your girlfriend can’t bully me. I get to choose that. Period. (Plus, no one needs a reason to hate someone; hate is irrational, and no matter how many lists you make, hate is a choice, not a must, or a rationalized “to do.”)

On the one hand, he was like, I don’t know why it took you so long to call; on the other, he was like, Well, why do you have to go dredging up the past? I was confused, obviously, mostly at his utter lack of self-observation–you do realize, I wanted to say, that you’re saying two different and opposite things and that both allow you to maintain your grudge, no matter what I say or do, right? He said something about, Well, there’s nothing we can do then. And I was like, YES, brother, there IS something we can do here, and it’s what we do, as humans: we can work together toward forgiving one another, and we can work together toward reconciliation. (I actually said that; I felt proud!)

Honestly, I realize the elephant in the room is his toxic, 15-year-old relationship with cray-cray. And, I see how messed up she is, and how IF he wants to change the situation, he’s going to have to confront her, call her out on her act, and stand up for himself. One, he’s never done that in 15 years; and two, I assume that he knows that IF he does that, he’s going to unleash her beast (she’s threatened to kill herself if he leaves her; which, in my opinion, is part of her act, but which I don’t think my brother is so sure).

GAH. Talk about Relationships 101. And, I realize now that it’s none of my business anymore; I don’t need and never did need to keep this shit live. That’s my problem, wanting and expecting people to align with how I see the world, to forgive and/or like me. Lesson learned: What other people think of me is none of my business; and let it go, let it go, let it go.

However, I was proud of myself! Once I got over my fear and pounding heart, I was pretty good at explaining myself. I know I did wrong, and MY crazy while blacked out can put off anyone for good. But, what more can I do? If they want to continue to buttress their grudge just to hide from reality, well, at least I don’t have to live in that place. I did send him the email she sent, and then we “chatted” about life, and then I hung up. And then, I called my other brother–we’re much closer–and he basically talked me down for the next hour and a half. All in all, it was cathartic, if not healing. I’m still not looking forward to the wedding, but at least now I KNOW I can stand up for myself–I won’t fall down and die.

The prologue is this:

THIS is just the beginning, this sober thing here. I feel like now, (my) sobriety is taking on a shape of its own, starting to live outside myself, direct me when I’m lost, prop me up when I’m weak and scared. I know it’s me, doing this, but it’s somehow more than me. Maybe it’s simply an accumulation of this constancy of self–I can rely on myself. I can rely not only on remaining sober but also on…this Truth inside to guide me, to steer me, to fill me up, to make me righteous when I need to be, to help me–allow me–to make the right choices, and not just the superficial ones that I “should” make.

It’s growing, and building, and I’m becoming more and more sure of myself, of this path as being the right one, of sobriety as being the right choice, and not just the good choice. It’s right because it’s allowed me so much growth this year, emotional and professional. It’s right because it helps me to really see my relationships in action, and to identify problems on my end. It’s right because, I don’t know, I’ve talked about this nebulous idea before, but protecting The Body is so much bigger than just not trashing my own temple. It’s about this connection to heaven, as it were, which is here on Earth–the body, this body that I’m in, this mind and body, is a holy ground. It is where I stand; it is the only place I can be, which means, feel safe, be connected to…the Truth. A calm. Something that says, it will all be OK. There is nothing too big or scary; nothing is big or scary, actually. It’s all good, baby.

Even more, I don’t have to rely on anything outside myself to connect to this truth anymore; it is right here, and it is growing. Sure, I want to drink sometimes, but I know I can do well without. And this truth, it gets bigger now with every day sober. I can’t tell you what a strange thing this is to say, because up until about a few weeks ago, I was still struggling with Not Drinking. Sobriety is about me not drinking, big deal, no one cares, it’s just alcohol anyway. Somehow, that has morphed. Maybe it’s as simple as momentum: my sober car is rolling, still picking up speed, and I’m finally able to look back and see just how far it’s come!

So, one year is a prologue, it seems. The best is yet to come. Sounds SO preachy and AA-y, but…it’s real. I think it helps to confront your shit–I am learning to do that as it happens, and not wait (um, two years). But hey, the things I’ve learned and what’s helped me become more empathetic toward myself and others is this: we all make mistakes in our lives, but we all evolve (if we try). And strangely, as you’re fighting to evolve, sometimes it’s YOU who has to help someone else learn this about themselves. Like, to tell them, You can change, you can evolve, you are bigger than you know.

Another one is, I forgive you. I mean, getting sober has taught me that I must (not should) be prepping to forgive all the time, because I DO want to be that person who is READY to forgive when someone who’s hurt me comes with a sincere apology. Forgiveness is hard, and you really do have to be prepared to offer it to someone; I don’t want to not be able to give that. People deserve it. I deserve it. So, in addition to not being hung over all the time, I’ve been able to learn the value of cultivating forgiveness in myself–for others’ health, for my own. DEEP THOUGHTS, people. 😉

Tonight is the wine bar event–well, we’re gathering at a wine bar/resto. On the one hand, it’s just another day sober. On the other, I feel better and more hopeful and less burdened than I have ever felt. And, I feel like I am more confident and settled–this isn’t going to go away with a mood swing because this is real, I made this. I built this. And, I think the struggle is what makes it worthwhile, because without that constant fighting against the wolfie in your head, there would be no…reference point. The whole process of building your new statue–becoming sober–is what helps it stick.

Thank you, friends. I would NEVER have gotten this far without your support here. Thank you from the bottom of my heart–your comments were touching and some brought tears to my eyes.

Now, another 90 days? Another 100-day challenge? Onward for this “user bitch cunt!” (I hate to tell her, but it’s no secret I can be a cunt; and, I still love me. So, GOTCHA, bitch! Of course, I’m not above resentment yet, my friends. LOL)

(Btw, I think my present to myself for a year sober might be a trip back to Mexico–I loved Mexico City when I went a few years ago, so…I don’t know why, but it sounds like a good idea!)

More days, is what’s next

29 Sep

11:45 am

Well, I’ve had two weeks to sort of “toy” with the idea (just an idea) of drinking again. Starting drinking again. Whatever that means, I’m not even sure. And…

I’ve decided that since it’s just right there, I’ll set my next immediate goal at 200 days (which is this coming Friday). Then, on October 12th–a mere week later–I’ll celebrate my “year soberversary,” which is in quotes because since last October 12th, I’ve missed ONE day, right in between at 6 months. So, there will be treats–more treats this time, less excuses for not allowing myself real treats–on those two days. And a mini-parade. With some glitter balls thrown in for good measure.

And then…I’ll set my goal for another 100 days! That’ll take me to what seems like a nice, even, good-sounding number: 300. This will be on January 12th, 2014. That’s the goal, 300 days.

(From there, it’s really easy to see that 365–a true year sans The Grape–is right around the corner, but, I’ll re-assess when I get to 300.)

Why all the planning and days-counting? Well, it helps. It really does. For me, sometime around my 6-month mark (the first time around), I began to see sobriety as less like a lack of drinking and more like a window of time during which I could get shit done, achieve some goals. I could sit back, take a deep breath, and not feel pressured, rushed, or anxious. It was a weird shift, feeling like I could actually rest EASY knowing that I didn’t have to drink, that I would be able to focus on other things besides drinking and not drinking.

So, that’s how this feels now. Once I get to October 12th, it’ll simply be another 100 days where I have “off” from thinking about drinking and “on” for doing my thing–plugging away, moving forward, achieving some new directions.

I start a new job tomorrow. Baker’s assistant. We’ll see. It pays minimum wage, but it’s enough that if I do that AND keep writing on the side, I can easily cover my bills down here. It’s a start, I guess. Back to the “real world.”

As I’ve said in a few previous posts, lately I’ve realized that for whatever reasons, I lost confidence in getting sober. By taking myself out of the game in order to heal, I also isolated. (And, for this reason, I sort of feel a general sense of bitterness toward sobriety, like it’s a bad parent.) Now, though, I feel like my voice is coming back, my ability and desire to use it. My presence. A sense of direction, of goal-oriented-ness.

Sure, I’ve still got a thin skin and worry about everything, let’s face it; but, that old, caution-to-the-wind, “warrior-ness” that I carried around for years is coming back. It almost did me in, carrying myself like that, so this “new me” will be a balancing act: how much to care, and strive, and achieve, and feed my hungry ego (yes, it still cries itself to sleep every night); and how much to just be and do, to let it all go and embrace a softer, gentler, less achievement-focused way of living. I still long for structure, in a way; for those 60-hour work weeks. I think my real addiction might be work, but that’s for another post.

Anyway, today’s a work day. And up most immediately? Calling my dad–it’s a difficult conversation with him; he continues to be depressed, and I have to tell him we’re not coming to visit this fall–and my brother. Gulp. My brother and I haven’t spoken for almost a year. I’m honestly not sure if he’s still holding a grudge from “the New Year’s Eve incident,” when I blacked out and screamed bloody murder at him and his (crazy) girlfriend. That was not this past year, but the year before–two years ago. I’ve been more than a little ticked off that they dragged it out this long–I tried, and tried, and tried saying I was sorry, and I ended up closing my door, so to speak. Now, I’m ready to open it, I guess; to welcome their forgiveness (if that is what it is) and–I hate to put it this way but it’s how I feel–forgive them for not forgiving me. Wish me luck.

Then, maybe some personal writing. Another exercise in patience. At least I have time–because I’m SOBER. And no hangover to make a waste of me today–because I’m SOBER. And a growing sense of “can do”-ness–you know the drill. And, a momentum, doing what needs to be done–you know why. A sense of calm, of peace, of lack of regret, of self-reliance and self-constancy–is that even a word? Self-constancy. Like, as long and wide as a desert; I am here, constant in myself. I like having this SO much that it almost brings tears to my eyes.

Happy Sunday, everyone.

All quiet on the western (well, equatorial) front

19 Sep

10:54 pm

Whew. Busy week. We got back from our trip (we went to Disney World!), and I just spent the past few days working on two projects. Lo and behold, I submitted my first (well, except for that piece I wrote for The Fix, which sadly shut down) “serious” freelance piece!

She’s baaaaaack…!

It really did feel like getting back on the bike. You know, the one I crashed in a blackout and left on the side of the road a couple years ago. It was still there in the ditch, a bit rusty, waiting for me to hoist myself back into the seat. I’m surprised I found it; then again, I’ve learned to start giving myself more credit. (At the very least, I did what I set out to do, and I can “officially” call myself a freelance journalist.)

And, my 180 days came and went. I barely noticed it, to be honest. There was NO WAY I was giving myself the option of getting drunk within a thousand miles of my boyfriend’s parents. And, truth be told, these days I’m not thinking of “when can I drink again” without having an entire ARMY of thoughts rationalizing myself out of it.

180 days. I’m still here. I’m still not drinking. I’m still not really having the time to revisit what has become, in my mind, much more of a practical necessity than some profound lifestyle choice.

Or is it? Profound, that is?

Things are normalizing. Which, I guess, is why the “profundity” of the sober lifestyle is being lost a little bit on me. Like, I find myself getting annoyed whenever I think or talk or read or write about not drinking. Am I still sick, or can I believe that I’m healed? I feel like things are getting back to normal. I really feel it to be true. The “normal” before I got sucked into the drinking vortex–the obsession, then the need to drink in order to get excited about doing just about anything.

Yes, being sober is GOOD, but, well, good like a grilled cheese sandwich is good on any continent and in any language. What I’m saying is, I remember not drinking as being normal, and this, this sober thing is simply the new normal. Not profound, not really a big deal. Just my new normal.

A hard-won new normal, that is.

I’ve already told you that I believe “alcoholism” is a mental *disorder*–this implies, of course, that I also believe that I can take away the “dis” and be left with the “order”. In the real world, I’m not so sure how this will pan out. I feel like I could drink and not go overboard, but…feelings aren’t facts! I sort of believe that I could probably stop after two glasses, but I’m definitely not sure I would want to. Would I throw caution to the wind and get shitfaced, with all the resulting drama that comes with blacking out? Or, would I be able to “control” that urge? Or, would that urge simply not be there, and I’d realize after two glasses that I’m drunk and I “should” stop?

Technically speaking, I could drink. I have my own permission, in a sense. I made it to 180 days, which was my goal. Healed or no, I can technically drink. The past few times when I actually had a craving–and, let me say, I never imagined that they would subside to almost nothing, but my cravings pretty much don’t exist the way they used to–I dismissed it. I thought, Eh, I don’t want to feel drunk. I don’t want to feel that wave of acid rush down my stomach. I don’t really have a reason to drink–I don’t need to drink, so why bother? I’m happy without the booze, how would it make things better? Like, I actually THOUGHT THESE THINGS.

Granted, I’ve been at this for a little over 15 months. Still, it’s almost like I don’t have the energy to drink. Or, I don’t want to blow it, and I could, I guess, if I drank. Even if I didn’t get that drunk, it might put me back a day, or two; or, I’d feel guilty, or like I’d lost momentum/self-reliance. Sobriety guarantees certain outcomes, like, waking up and being able to try to get work done/get work done. I’m making incremental steps forward in the freelancing, and this is good. I wish I was doing more, and going faster, but lately I’ve realized that for whatever reason, I have to take things slow. And that includes work. Baby steps, and don’t overdo it, and turn it off at a certain hour–these, along with not drinking, are my new normal.

I also am beginning to enjoy working to live instead of living to work. On the other hand, my energy is coming back, SLOWLY but surely, and I’m actually looking forward to getting out more, picking up some part-time volunteer work, trying (at least one) new things that don’t involve what I’ve always done (intellectual reading/writing-oriented work). These are my goals, specific to me and my own personal neuroses. Just like my drinking “triggers” are specific to me. It’s dawned on me once again just how personal a sober journey can be.

I know that most people outside of this sobersphere (and AA) simply don’t GET the significance of getting sober. Of choosing a sober lifestyle. And, eventually, I might forget why I’m doing this. Every day so far since I quit, though, I wake up and look at my life through my sober glasses–maybe I’m not doing this or that because I got sober, but I’m definitely doing it with more purpose and more gratitude. So, we cling to it, this sober lifestyle choice, and celebrate it, and throw unicorn parades with our glitter balls and sober cars. Because it works!

It’s working! Something has clicked, has shifted. Maybe it’s simply the cravings fucking-finally-god-DAMN-it subsiding, maybe it’s me becoming my “old” self, maybe it’s me accepting my “new” self? Whatever it is, it’s working!

And that, my friends, is why it’s all quiet on the equatorial front.

I can imagine myself setting a new goal, another 180 days–we’ll see. I’m not thinking about drinking, things are quiet, and I have a lot of work to do. If the next six months are like the past six months, they’re going to blaze by, me in the saddle trying to hold onto my to-do list as the wind rips it to shreds!

100 days…and business as usual!

26 Jun

4:34 pm

That’s sort of how I feel. YES, I made it, but eh, I’m still sober and I’ve got work to do. Which is good. I NEED goals, otherwise I tailspin into the bottom of a bottle.

First up, thanks to ALL for the continued support–especially Belle for the shout-out today, and for the brilliant 100 Day Challenge. As you may know, this is not my first time at the 100-day mark, but I have to say, it IS the easiest. There’s an acceptance that drinking will *probably* (haha) offer me nothing; even my reward circuits have re-learned this, and they finally seem to be settling–albeit grudgingly–back into what used to be a natural resting state.

What’s different this time? Well, let me remind you that I first got sober last June and went for 60 days before falling off the wagon twice in one week. Both times involved me blacking out and, once, going swimming (always safe to attempt to swim while blacked out), once, texting an ex and babble-yelling at my boyfriend with two house guests in the next room (marvelous host, I am). Then, I went for five weeks, fell off again for about three weeks, and finally got back on after a horrendous last drunk where I ended up locking someone out of my apartment and having to repair the damage, move out of my place, and get my ass to the airport before 9–all while still flaming drunk and operating on three hours of blacked out sleep. I moved here, and I went for ALMOST SIX MONTHS, which I believe I had something close to 160 days.

Now, the last time I circled around 100 days, ALL I WANTED WAS TO DRINK. The urge had not disappeared, there was no fairy dust falling from the sky and blotting out all the bad memories, overwhelming loose ends and things I hadn’t yet done (which I still have yet to do, btw). My pulsating neuronal circuits still resembled a neon sign that read “Wine ALL Night” and kept throbbing to the beat of my heart.

And, I had no idea that the next oh, two months, would be so hard.

From about day 90 (13 weeks?) to about 20 weeks–that’s almost two whole months–all I wanted was to drink. To stop this nonsense and just go back to normal, which to me was drinking. I wanted my LIFE back. The cravings were worse than ever! I had no idea how difficult it would be–everyone in AA told me that once I hit 90, I’d be OK. Well, it wasn’t like that for me. I felt angry, and bitter, like I had been cheated; here I was, TWICE past 90 days, and all I wanted–STILL–was wine! It’s just never going to get better, I kept thinking. I am permanently brain damaged.

So, I drank. That was one night, back in March, and guess what? Same Old Shit. Blacked out and said way more than I should have, passed out sitting up (I think I threw up on myself a little, too), and felt like ass for the next THREE days. It would not–could not–do. With literally no other option, I got back on the horse, (well, in my case, the unicorn), and let the slip pass.

This time around, it’s been much easier. I mean, getting back on the wagon wasn’t hard, though at the time it felt like three weeks was WAY too long to convince myself that I shouldn’t drink again. I think my sober muscles, which I had been building up over the past year, just PUSHED; and there I was, going on four weeks, then eight, and now…100 days.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the neurochemistry involved in disorders of the brain, and how it might work for alcoholism. I wonder what our drinking circuits look like: are these circuits so rigid, so inflexible, that they’ve almost solidified into place? I think so. I think it takes a lot of mental work to loosen these configurations and to dissociate them from anticipating a drink, yes. But, I think simply Not Drinking When You Really Really Want To goes a long way toward dissolving these bonds, let’s just call them. These configurations settle into a specific shape; and, that shape is kept in place by drinking when you WANT to, not necessarily because it feels good to drink. Think of it like this: add booze at any point in the early stages of recovery, and BAM, those circuits snap back into place and start throbbing again. Less and less so, the longer you are sober. But…maybe not. Everyone’s drinking problem is unique.

In any case, I’m OK not drinking, and I’ve come a long way toward replacing not drinking with like, real life, including work, friends, and future plans. I’m not so self-absorbed; I feel a lot more like myself again, able to be out in the world and not feel like my skin is as fine as butterfly wings.

I want to be excited about today, like uber-excited, but really, it’s just another day! I continue to appreciate every moment that I’m sober, but I whine a LOT less about wanting to drink. It’s been easier in that–and I think I’ve already said how incredulous I am about this development–I don’t have many cravings anymore. Like, yes, sure, OK, I GUESS it’d be nice to have a glass of wine, but, really, would it?

And, to be honest, a lot of the stuff I used to worry about, I just gave up on. Haha. I’m not going to be perfect, I may never publish a book, I probably won’t have kids of my own, I probably definitely won’t own a brownstone in Brooklyn. I probably won’t speak to my brother again. BLAH BLAH BLAH. Shut up, cousin of wolfie, who is the voice of pointless rumination!

The only thing that seems to really matter anymore is that I’ve got my foundation, my new sober house. And it is hurricane-proof. Can withstand the strongest flood. It’s like, when life starts to seem to real–when all that out there actually starts to look real–I just go inside my sober house and close the door. See ya, wolfie! See ya, cousin of wolfie! See ya, people who don’t matter and things that I’m making up about you!

MY HOUSE: cool cement floors covered in exquisite blue tiles; a tall ceiling; a breeze from the most glorious sea you could envision, twisting the sheer linen curtains ever so slightly. Oh, what? Is there a storm? Oh, wait, you said a hurricane? Nope, it’s like the dead of night inside my house, it’s that quiet. Oh, is someone coming over to knock on my door, breathe in my face, scream in my ear? OK; whatever. Tell them to go around the back, I’ll be a while. My house. Hurricane-proof. Avalanche-ready. Typhoon-resistant!

What’s next? Well, ending this long-winded blog post, for one. And then…working. Not drinking. Going to bed looking forward to tomorrow. The usual. 😉

Some days are better than others

23 Jun

11:16 pm

Some days just drag. I’m not bored, and I have so much to do–and be thankful for–yet, I have a pull in my gut that says, Go get some wine and make this restlessness go away! It feels like a mini-temper tantrum, and it’s related, I suppose, to not getting my way.

My writing didn’t go well today! Waaaaah! I didn’t get a run in, so missed out on my endorphin fix! SUCKS to be me, me, me, me, me!

Like today. Today. Grr. It was hot. Yesterday I ran five miles; today, I could barely peel my overheated self off the mattress before 10. I managed to do stuff–walk the dogs; start on a labor-intensive and highly aggravating personal writing project; watch the supermoon rise over the fucking ocean, for God’s sake!–but it was sort of in spite of that temper tantrum-y feeling. Normal people might just turn on the TV, but all I can do with this feeling is pace. I used to drink wine. NOPE. Now I get to sit with it, and watch it eat me from the inside out! Grr.

This weekend, I’ve been trying to begin compiling some “stories,” as it were, re: my drinking past, and man, oh, man, does it suck the life force out of me. Ugh. Yes, it was bad and I not only had to live through it, but I journaled through it. Now to rehash it again? Sometimes, enough IS enough, right? Well, if you’re a writer, it’s your job to mine the past. And, I just NEED to do this right now–call it 5th step work, call it gaining a bigger picture of how far I’ve come.

I feel like I’m not entitled to have fun, if I really dig deep. Well, maybe “entitled” is not the right word. I don’t deserve it? I can’t afford it? I spent all my “fun” money. Actually, I took out so many fun loans, it looks like I might be in fun money debt in perpetuity.

The good news? The temper tantrum goes away–maximum it lasts is a day; and if it doesn’t, there’s always that boring book to put me into a sleepy trance so I can blow this joint by becoming unconscious the natural way! And, you know what? My idea of “fun” is different these days, which helps me to accept passing the time more calmly, sans wine. I like just sitting, thinking. Staring, even. Nights spent staring at the moon, or the stars; while, yes, still leave me feeling bored, are what I need. And, I know this.

So, to my envy (I see you, wolfie, it’s YOU, I KNOW it’s you), I say: You can have your evenings out and your brunches. I’ll take my long walks alone with the (what’s now become a pack; more than two) dogs. I’ll take my afternoons reading or writing (trying to write). Lunch on my own. Silence all day, except for that sweet tune in my head–it’s in surround sound, and it’s nice.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a really boring book to get to… 😉

Recovery meets real life, or, Time to get back to work!

19 Jun

8:02 pm

It’s not that I don’t like being on this inner tube, fizzy water in hand, floating down the calm waters of a river with no end in sight, because I do.

For me, recovery has been about stopping what I was doing and just…stalling for a while. Breathing. Doing nothing but focusing on myself, and my recovery. Don’t get me wrong: getting sober WAS work, but I didn’t have the stress of going into an office every day doing a job I felt was meaningless (a large part of why I drank in the first place). I had good reason to not work (and here, I use the term in the sense of “real world” work): I was getting sober. I was healing. I was putting all my energy–for once, for ONCE!–into saving myself instead of the saving the world, as it were.

Until recently. Lately, I’ve been pushing myself to get back into the world of science writing. Truth be told, I’ve been scared SHITLESS of writing on a freelance basis, well, since I graduated from boot cam—err, my master’s program in journalism. I tried, here and there over the past several years, wrote a memoir that I shelved, started and stopped a few other personal writing projects; but, I simply haven’t pitched many story ideas–what if I was ignored or worse, brutally rejected?! YES, I worked in the field, but my standards were high: in order to be a “real” journalist, I needed to be pitching and writing as a contributing editor, a freelance writer; not being assigned stories and story ideas by an editor.

It’s hard to explain this pedantic notion of what it means to “be a writer” in my mind. Whatever it is, I wasn’t it. No way, no how. Even though I WAS, actually, writing quite complex pieces every month for a magazine (and doing it well, I might add). Somewhere along the way, I lost confidence in myself as a writer–in my creativity and in my writing.

That’s been the story of my life, though: a deep-seated lack of self-confidence. Part of it is genetic: I’m an introvert. Journalism isn’t necessarily a good occupation for a lot of us writers who, yes, prefer to be alone all day. However, we grow, we learn, we stretch outside our comfort zones; it gets easier, and it becomes a job that we can do. Part of it is experience: my graduate program was pretty brutal, and I guess I internalized that criticism a little too much. I’m always fearing the worst when it comes to negative feedback and/or criticism. I was–I am–in abject fear of failure. Finally, part of it is being from the Midwest: we don’t brag. Bragging is just not in our blood. We’re nice, we let others go first, we say we’re sorry a little too much. (In fact, I wonder how different my life would have gone if I had been born and raised in New York…)

I KNEW this day would come, and maybe I drew out my recovery–quitting, staying quit, conquering the cravings, dealing with some issues–so that I could put off getting back into the real world of work.

Yet, I’ve made some progress lately on the pitching and writing front. I’ve also started the process of getting back into reviewing and assimilating the science news (which is a hefty amount of information, to be done on a gradual basis).

I think, actually, that the so-called “miracle” is on its way. I’ve noticed my confidence increasing: I’ve suddenly seemed to have arrived at this point of, Hey, I can do this, and I WILL DO THIS. It’s no longer a matter of, I’m not good enough, or, I’m afraid. I need to get back in the game. I’m a (damn) good player, and I’ve been on the sidelines for too long.

Onward! 100 days in one week… Unicorns, CHARGE! 🙂 *glitter ball*

Bobbing along nicely and–BAM! Another pesky issue…

10 Jun

1:52 am

That’s how I feel. I’m just bobbing in my inner tube in the middle of the ocean. There’s blue horizon everywhere–possibility–but I’m sort of just USED to it. No big whoop. And then…

CRASH! I run head first into an issue like, I have low self-esteem. Or, I may never speak to my brother again and I’m not sure I want to, and that feels really bad inside. And, all my hip-hip-hooraying for myself fizzes out of me like air from a wet balloon.

For the past several weeks (a month?), the urge to drink has been replaced by the urge to do. To Get Things Done. The necessity to move forward, before It’s All Too Late. I’ve got 12 weeks sober again tomorrow, which is good-fine-great-grand. Whatever, in a way. I really can’t even think about drinking, I have too many important tasks and decisions. Maybe next week, after 90 days? Nah, probably not. Maybe next month, after 100 days? I don’t know…I might be volunteering, or going back to school, or something else huge and stressful (what IS my problem?).

Fortunately, there are no real cravings, is what I’m saying; I’ve basically stomped them into the ground with my rationalizing and true-storytelling (i.e., If you drink, you will feel horrible and do and/or say horrible things). And, this has been absolutely amazing. A relief of the sort I never in a million years would have imagined, let alone hoped for, in sobriety. NEVER. Never never never. (I’m still waiting for the desire to guzzle vino to come roaring back, or even niggling its way in; but so far, so good. FUCK YOU, WOLFIE. HATE YOU VERY MUCH!)

Anyway, tomorrow, aside from finishing an editing project, I want to pitch a few story ideas to an editor. Yes, actually. And, no, I have no idea who this nebulous figure is, said editor, but I do have contacts at the magazine and why not? WHY NOT.

I discovered that, sans wine, I can no longer avoid confronting the existence of my sad, sorry self-esteem. I have major self-esteem issues, and of course, drinking made them worse but also, drinking was just a good cover. I didn’t have to confront them and therefore, I also didn’t have to deal with them. As for pitching, partly, I’m still making excuses why I shouldn’t, but mainly, it’s the rejection I fear now (I guess) more than the work involved in the ensuing project if said editor says yes (or the work involved in pitching more and again and elsewhere if said editor says no). OH, WELL. That’s the writing life, and I am SO SICK OF MYSELF for not actually doing it.

I can do this. And I will. I just have no idea why I haven’t believed in myself enough for this long to not even fucking try.

Like I said, bobbing along and then–BAM! Icebergs! (The good thing about being sober is, you don’t get stuck on the iceberg’s tip and start to freeze to death. You see it, drink in some of its actual stunning beauty, and then, push it aside with your toe. You are, after all, bobbing along in YOUR inner tube, on a summer’s day, blue horizon all around. And, wait, LOOK–there’s the shoreline, and there’s your Unicorn with Sparkly Teeth! She’s waiting for you! She’s still pulling your water wagon and YES, yes she IS holding a nice fizzy drink in one hoof JUST FOR YOU! And you look back, see the iceberg floating away, and sigh, Eh, it was JUST an iceberg…)

Loosening the reins (not caring), committing fully, or both?

28 May

12:11 pm

I know, the past two posts have been about not caring, and I apologize for that.

It’s not exactly “not caring,” it’s more not having the energy to care THAT MUCH about the “whole mess,” as I’ve been referring to my drinking life/getting sober. Life moves on, and well, I have to let some things go in order to make room for others, right? (My brother called me the other day, but I just can’t be bothered; there will be no call back, mainly to preserve my momentum and because, well, I don’t feel like engaging anyone, including my own family, in a passive aggressive relationship. In a nutshell, I just can’t care. I feel bad, sure, but I can’t care about that either.)

(And, this will be a very lame paragraph in an effort to preserve my anonymity, so bear with me:)

I’m going [out of town] tomorrow to check out a graduate program I’m interested in, to check in on my storage unit, to see some friends, to go to the DMV, and to hit the dentist and hair salon (there are salons down here, of course, but you know, creature of habit). I’m thinking (we’ll see tonight, after my Skype chat) of volunteering for about six weeks teaching English on [a neighboring island] this summer. We’re going to [another neighboring island] for my birthday. I’m running, making (some) money, and trying to begin the thought process involved in re-inserting myself back into the “real world” workforce without having a panic attack…

Panic attack? Nah. I know that I’m beyond that kind of thinking. But, drinking? Well, I do have butterflies, mainly because I wonder if I can do this sober? This real life thing? Or, is it just that this all scares me NOW, at this moment, because I basically “hid” on an island for about 18 months (in order to get sober) and now…? Maybe it’s that I KNOW it’ll all unfold smoothly…if and only if I don’t drink? Is it that wolfie’s simply looking for an in here, and I have to put my foot down (on its skull) and close that door?

I admit, I have thought about drinking once I get on the plane. You know? Like, I made it to 70 days again, and damn it, what else is there to do in my old big city but drink?! Drink drank drunk! Sigh. That was my OLD life, I have to keep reminding myself. I have to have the foresight (check; shit would be so disappointing if I wound up back to square one within a day) and courage (um, check?) to believe that I can do it. I just have to take the first step, then the second, then the third…

Almost subconsciously, I alerted the friend who I’ll be crashing with that I was sober. She already knows, but I guess I figured, I better remind her…so that I don’t have an out, you see. Which, the next day, a part of me (wolfie-boy) was like, Aww, damn it, now I really can’t drink if I’ve promised her not to let me! Boo.

Then, it quickly crept up on me, like a fast blush, that I really don’t want to drink. Why? For all the same God damned, motherfucking (yes, I need that ;)) reasons I haven’t been drinkin’ since last June (thick skull): don’t want to get too drunk on the flight and get lost at the airport (or worse); don’t want to show up at my friend’s place drunk and/or angry (or worse); don’t want to sleep until 10 or 11 (uh, 2?), hung over, and mess up my schedule, which has my days packed with activity; don’t want to be THAT girl, who has not only offended and let down her big city peeps, but who wants to prove to them that she really IS changed.

Things are different. I believe it. They are, aren’t they?

I think I just have to take some deep breaths, rely on my well-trained sober muscles, and go forth. Like a track star. Which I am, right? There will be scared-y cat moments, there will be awkward and weird encounters; but, if I commit to being sober, all will go well. There will be no events, no crises, no hangovers, no ruinous bullshit. And, I can come home and be on my way to 90 days (again)…making Belle’s 100 Day Challenge a success…and building toward 180, where I’ve never been.

(The truth is, I could probably drink on the flight, but not more than two. And, I could probably drink on my own, but not with my friends (I will never go there again, mainly because I have NO idea what might transpire)–but, what fun is that? And, it’s like, duh, this all feels so familiar, limiting and rationing and blah blah blah. In fact, this leads me to remember an incident I read about and one of my own, about some kid who died because he tried some stupid stunt on the subway tracks while shitfaced… There is no other option but to not drink. For now. And I know it.)

It’s OK to not care (that much) anymore

23 May

7:46 pm

I’m here, and nothing big to report. Still got blue skies, sparkly water, green trees, and very little desire to fuck it all up by drinkin’, let alone care about the whole mess. I’m gliding, and it feels good.

FINALLY. It’s taken almost a year for my brain to repair itself; and, I really think it has, to a large extent. I’m not sure what to make of it, though, because it’s new territory. Simply put, I think I’ve just accepted that I cannot drink, for one thing. I don’t drink now, like I’m preggers or have a life-threatening illness. I can’t drink, won’t drink, don’t drink. End of story. I think I’ve not only given up (let’s just say) on feeling better, but I’ve stopped actually being 100 percent fucking CONVINCED that wine will do it for me! Which, if you look at it in a positive light, is a good thing.

Second, I don’t really have time to drink or think about drinking these days–I’ve got science and writing and travel and future plans to wrangle with, AND, I’ve started running again, so that means EITHER drinking or training, but not both (hangover + running = null set). I don’t really have the energy, either, to think about all the emotional whys and wherefores that brought me to addiction. I’m over it, and frankly, I think it’s OK to stop dwelling on it all, for now. Yup, you should say you’re sorry. Yup, you should connect your drinking to your (my) self-loathing attempts at self-sabotage. Yup, yup, yup. Let it go, though, friends. I’ve read quite a few posts lately in which peeps are running around in their heads, trying to figure it all out. It’s OK not to care about figuring it all out, for now. You can not care AND be sober. You really can!

Booze is not the problem, you (we) are. That means that other things will come up, like binge eating, or sugar, or coffee. Or, doing something instead of what you should be doing; by “should,” I mean your dharma, and we all know what it is we’re called to do, we just have to take the time to discover it. At the end of the day, only you can figure out what happens after the bottle of vodka or decanter-sized glass of wine runs out. I’ve read some posts dealing with filler addictions, replacement fixes. Look: if you can give up fucking drinking, DUDE, you can give up ANYTHING. I’m pretty sure the only thing more painful than fucking around in my head for a year, wrestling with wolfie-boy is, I don’t know, hanging from metal hooks latched into my skin? It’s a constant struggle for all of us, I’m guessing, to not cave into our other “vices” just because we don’t drink. Again, let it go. You’re doing your best. Cut back, or do one thing less than you’re doing it, or more. And, it’s OK to not give a shit about this, too!

All that matters is you’re not drinking. Everything else, if you’re a human being with a functioning mind, will fall into place…eventually. And if it doesn’t? Well, it’s OK to let that go, too.

What helps me now? Knowing full well that a “glass of wine” (haha) won’t make it better. Won’t even come close. I just KNOW THAT. Why? Because I slipped. And, I think about the scenario over and over and over and over…until it finally fucking dawns on me that wine is not really what I want. I want relief. From what, is the key question. And, thinking it through, and finding your way–like, a mental route–to that question IS sober living, whether or not you end up drinking to ease the pain. GOOD FOR YOU that you’ve arrived at that KEY question: hold it in the palm of your hand and don’t let it go, no matter how much the little jewel might burn.

I also fill my days as much as I can, and I run into the problem of feeling empty, like I have nothing inside me, like I’m just a shell of a person. And, in a sense, I am. But, I (we) are building, and filling, and creating, and being productive instead of destructive–so, move through the regret and embrace this probably common truth that we (I) are shells and start FILLING it up with stuff you like to do. Most of the time I think I don’t know what I “really really” want or like to do, but I know I like writing, and science, and I have degrees from schools, and there’s the dogs, and the boyfriend, and my cakes, and…why the FUCK am I being so hard on myself? I’m SO full, it’s ridiculous! So, even I don’t know what I mean by this “shell” thing, but again, I don’t care. For now.

Hey, I thought the other day, I can live sober. I can actually DO THIS. It ain’t that bad not drinking. What a fucking epiphany. LOL. (Hello, first 35 years of my life! Were you really THAT bad?) Even a few weeks ago, I didn’t really believe this.

The remaining immediate hurdle for me is getting over, somehow, the sense that there is nothing as awesome to look forward to as wine. Sure, I can do this and substitute that, but wine, oh, wine, there is no one but you. That goes in direct contrast to what I just wrote, about realizing that wine is NOT what I want, but hey, it’s the human brain we’re dealing with here: fucked up.

Yes, this post contains a lot of “fuck’s,” but fuck it, this is how I talk to myself sometimes. 😉

So, I’m on Day…I’m not even sure. 66. Tomorrow will be 67. Onward to 90, then 100, then…the gilt-edged 180? *glitter ball*

Another 60 days… (and I feel fine)

18 May

6:05 pm

I’m at 60 days again (well, 61 today), and for some reason, it’s not a big deal. Sure, I put my 60-day AA chip out on display on the top of my desk (alongside my 24-hour and 30-day, all three awaiting the 90-day chip that remains in my desk drawer), but, otherwise it’s become more of a given: I don’t drink.

For one thing, I know I have a lot I want to do in the next few months, both personally and professionally, and drinking will prevent me from doing it. Period. Drinking is the opposite of being productive, and I want to get shit done! After all this time, I know that it’s not what I want, and, I know that it’s counterproductive–and, being productive is the antidote to my cravings, for the most part. Drinking gets in the way of that, both before, during, and long after. As my Facebook friends so effectively illustrated this Saturday morning, I can either be going to the bodega for Advil, coconut water, and a bagel; or, I can be on my way to Estonia (or, whatever other country is on your must-see list).

Secondly, compared to my last time being here (mid-December), I really don’t feel like drinkin’. Really really. That dazed-and-confused feeling, that first-few-sips-and-I’m-already-starting-to-forget-things feeling, that nervous-because-who-knows-what-I-might-do-in-my-blackout-some-dumbass-shit-I’m-sure feeling–yeah, I really don’t want THAT feeling.

I’d rather get on with things. And those things–scientific editorial work, story pitching, trip researching, future job planning–can’t be done while thinking about drinking, drunk, or being hung over.

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately grappling with the idea of slipping and/or relapsing. For me, slipping was necessary. I don’t like to be afraid, to wonder, and slipping was my way of dispelling my fear: What would it be like if I drank? Welp, I drank and found out! It was necessary, for me anyway, to finally know–deep down, with no lingering doubts–that being sober is better than drinking, and the very least, drinking does not help me now; most of the time, it makes things worse. One glass is more painful than no glass, mainly because I just want more, and more, and more. I know I won’t want to stop, and I’d rather just skip the whole mess.

I never got a pink cloud, but I do have a moment now and then; and one of the best pink-cloud moments is when you sit back and think, Look at what my Saturday is like NOW, versus what it was like when I was drinking? And, the miracle is not that I quit drinking, or reached 60 days. It’s that THIS is my new normal–I expect to get up at 8 or 9 or 10, do the dishes and make coffee, walk the dogs to the beach with my boyfriend, bathe the dogs when we get home, shower, and then drive to “town” to hit a mini-arts fest and shop at a big box store (yes, I can’t tell you how fun shopping for bulk items is, even now, on a Saturday, when any other day prior to last June would have seen me sick and in bed until 3 pm, barely breathing and trying to piece my soul back together form a night out that I don’t remember). Yes, this is my new normal, and how much glitter can I toss over my unicorn’s shoulder to celebrate such an awesome mental and emotional achievement in healing? And endless supply, friends.

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