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Do you still miss drinking?

21 May

10:16 am

Well, that’s a question, isn’t it?  My boyfriend and I were driving to the beach the other day, or back from some boat trip, and he was like, Do you ever miss drinking, or still want to drink?  Or, do you just not talk (complain) about it anymore?

Hmm.  I really had to think about it.  I’ve been thinking about drinking, and sobriety, but I just haven’t been coalescing those thoughts into posts.  And, as you guys know, it’s partly because life has gotten busy, work-wise.  I’m still working remotely for the company I was at, and I’m also working three to four days a week at the same local coffee shop.  And, frankly, it’s still not enough money, considering my ever-present student loan debt, future goals and dreams, and well, life is expensive.  But, it’s comforting to know that I do have spending money (the lattes money), and I don’t feel “guilty” buying trips, new shoes, and expensive food items once in a while.  As Peter Tosh sang, most of us are livin’ small.

The other reason I haven’t been blogging is this irritant factor.  It’s like, I’d rather just not think about not drinking anymore.  But, I DO think about it, all the time.  It’s just changing.  It’s weird.  While I miss getting sober–there is definitely a “high” to achieving and sustaining a longish-term sobriety, and I’d say that lasts up to years–I do have to accept that I’m beyond that.  The pink cloud still rests above my head, it’s just sort of faded.

I mean, yes, when I see people come into the coffee bar at 5:30 (my start time–ouch), STILL FLAMING DRUNK and having incoherent and emotional arguments with each other, I cringe inside; and then, I breathe a sigh of relief.  And that relief doesn’t ever go away; in fact, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.  I have to admit, in my darker hours, or my agro ones after the caffeine buzz wears off and I get “hangry,” a small part of me feels smug about it–just a little bit.  Mainly, though, this sense of relief, of being FAR, far away from the urge to binge drink/drink alcoholically–it’s a constant, gracious presence.  I feel gratitude all the time.  For not feeling the urge to drink, ever, really.  And for never, ever having to be hungover like that again.

What I don’t feel is the excitement in congratulating myself anymore.  And, I suppose that’s a good thing.  Life is just life, it doesn’t have to revolve around this idea of “me being or getting sober, or being pleased with me being or getting sober.”  You know?

However, then my boyfriend hits me with that question, and it stirs up the fact that I haven’t forgotten about my sobriety at all, and I have to say:  Yes.  Yes, I do still think about drinking.  Yes, I do still want to drink once in a while, when I encounter a very powerful (to me) trigger.  When?  Well, let’s just say, on a boat trip, when I feel jealous (ugh) of all the hot, young girls with their flat bellies (well, I never had a flat belly, even in my 20s).  On that same boat trip, toward the end, when my insecurity about being “old” has been sufficiently compounded by the sense that I’m not only “old,” I’m also boring–that’s when I really start to feel grumpy and want to drink.  I feel sorry for myself.  It’s residual though, like a long lost limb from a faraway ancestor–I can intellectualize it away, and realize that it’s just a feeling.  Still, I do feel tired of being the “narc.”  (In fact, at the last beach bar we stopped at on this “for example” boat trip, I ordered a virgin tropical drink, and the guy goes, “I die a little every time someone orders said tropical drink without the rum.”  And I look up, pissed, and I go, “Well, I die a little every time I drink rum.  So, what do ya got for me?”  He wasn’t displeased, but he was definitely taken aback.  He ended up adding coconut water, and let me tell you, it was pretty damn tasty!)

I have to stress, and this is most important as my sobriety lengthens:  it’s not that I want to get drunk.  It’s just that I want to…not be sober.  When I see a friend of mine, doing it up in the big city we used to live in together, drinking drinking drinking all over the place, every night; I feel…some sort of loss.  I know it comes back to this fear of missing out, or my OLD ideas and notions about how to “have fun” or “have a good life.”  My OLD ideas of me.

I don’t miss getting drunk.  What I, Drunky Drunk Girl, miss is the ability to instantly and effortlessly escape my seriousness.  The world.  Daily, “hum drum” life.  Some might call it a lack of free spiritedness, an “always in my head”-ness, a sobriety of thought, or, an overwhelming thoughtfulness.  Maybe it’s simply neuroticism:  the tendency to overthink negative (and positive?) thoughts.  Maybe I can call it depression, as this lingers.  I don’t know.  But, I do miss being able to “be that fun girl.”  Of course, I know I can be that fun girl in other ways, and that frankly, I WAS NEVER THAT FUN GIRL when I was drinking.  But, the constructs and stories we tell ourselves linger on and on into our sober years–and it really does take a constant checking in to right, correct, re-mold these ideas.  And, yeah, the peer pressure is always going to be there unless you check in and say, Fuck that, I rock.  SO MUCH HARDER NOW THAT I’M SOBER.

So, no, I never want to get drunk.  But, yes, I still do want to “not be me.”  Or, be that fun girl.  Or, escape from my sober life.  And, I guess that’s what we give up in exchange for constancy of mood, deep knowledge of self, and the GIFT of being able to look forward, with relatively laser focus, on our lives–and to make plans that suit us, lift us, and maximize our potential.  That is worth a thousand nights of drinking, and a million mornings of being hungover.

Milestones…and fatigue

15 Jun

11:21 am

Wow, I can’t believe how fast time is flying. Which, I suppose, was my goal: keep my mind dial on “future focus” so that I don’t dwell on The Girlfriend, or, so I don’t give her the time (my life) that she doesn’t deserve. And, now that that’s behind me, the future is here, and I have a lot more important things to think about.

Aside from stressing on how I’m going to earn money, though, life has been pretty fantastic–things are unfolding. Moving right along, as a friend recently commented. And, you know, honestly, it’s been so few and far between, the number of times through all of this that I’ve thought, This would be better with a glass of wine. The longer we go in our period of sobriety, it just happens, this letting go of the Myth of Alcohol–we don’t need it.

To summarize the past month or so, many a milestone has come and gone and I’ve just been trying to keep up (on the outside world, let alone on my blog): my brother’s wedding, the “confrontation,” which turned out to be not much of one, with The Girlfriend; our 2-week trip; planning my “voluntouring” vacation (for which I leave this Thursday); my 40th birthday this week (for which I had a surprise party thrown by my brother’s new husband, during their wedding weekend no doubt!); a beach party for my birthday yesterday (for which my boyfriend and I made a bunch of pretty tasty eats); and in between all that, my 450 day-milestone on June 11th and my 2-years-blogging anniversary on June 14th (I started this blog two years ago on June 14th, and have been sober–more or less–ever since).

Throw in a flu last week and, unfortunately, a UTI (ladies, you know the urgency of getting antibiotics started, especially when you have to wait through the weekend for a pharmacy to open up)–well, this girl is feeling like she’s on the inside of a tornado!

Alas, I think that’s how I planned it, y’all. Far, far better to be busy and occupied than to be dwelling, and drinking.

On that note, I have to run. Sorry I’ve been so MIA. I have the feeling that things might get even crazier in the next few weeks, but I will definitely try to keep you up to date with more frequent posts. (Come to think of it, the next one is going to be on unmet needs and a sense of purpose as antidotes to addictive behavior–it’s been on my mind lately.)

Planning “me” time

26 Jan

1:08 pm

So, today, and yesterday, I have “me” time. Why? Because I planned out all my “non-me” time for this week. Sure, it’ll be a busy week, and sure, I won’t have anymore “me” time until next weekend; but like planning when and how I’m going to work, I’ve found that it is simply essential for me to both plan my off-hours and then take them. Like, I don’t have to ruin today with tomorrow, you know?

Since it’s all planned out, I can enjoy my time off, like really enjoy it. For me, these days, that usually involves a lot of walking, zoning, looking at the trees and water, and being with my dogs. Lately, I’ve been doing yoga classes, willingly, which is a nice step forward. Tiptoe’ing back into hobbies, like strumming my guitar, and listening to music. (And, again, I have to limit it, seeing how I’ve noticed my tendency to need to listen to ALL music, and know EVERYTHING about the historical and social relevance of new artists, and then, the sheer NUMBER of new sounds just makes my brain explode in a good way, but then, the fact that there is SO MUCH to catch up on makes it implode in a bad way–Jesus, someone get me out of my head!)

As I’ve said a gazillion times on this blog, a huge problem I used to have (still have) is taking time off. I mean, Turning It Off. Before, I was unable to turn it off–to stop working, to stop doing, to stop thinking about working or doing–so I drank. I drank to turn it off, I drank to be able to turn it off. You know? I mean, I drank because I had this anxiety around achievement and accomplishment. When I was faced with “down time,” either I didn’t want to be creative and work and do, or, I was afraid of trying and failing. Ack. So, I drank to avoid, but I also drank because I didn’t know how to just sit, without feeling all panicky and paranoid.

Now? Aside from sort of re-training myself to embrace down time, to accept balance into my life; I’ve also realized that I have to plan for it. Belle has a genius thing down, which is a day trip. Me? I just take time to actually plan my off-hours now, which means I plan my on-hours better (even more than I used to, I suppose). And, lately, with my mood improving and my energy coming back, I’ve been seeing improvements in balance–I CAN take time off, on the weekends or during the day, and then come back to work, recharged. Like, clearing out my brain, making way for more information, more concentration. I need this, especially in the kind of work I do.

Yesterday, I did some stuff I never do, and while I was like, Oh, this isn’t going to help, I’m going to feel more stressed when I do have to get back to work, I’m wasting time–I did it anyway. And I feel so much better today! Took a couple hours to sweep and mop the place; listened to music (old and new) for like, 6 or 7 hours; did some yoga; went for a 3-mile run (my runs need a lot of pain management); and then, I don’t know, just hung out with my pets and the night sky. See, before, when I was drinking, I COULD do the hanging-out-with-the-night-sky thing, but I never appreciated it. And I had to drink to keep the panicky feelings away. I don’t know, I just could not spend time without worrying about what I was spending it on, without wanting to run away, screaming in agony. Turns out, I wasn’t spending time, wine was spending me.

Anyway, this is a long-winded way of saying, time off is essential. And, even though I thought taking time off with drinking was worth it, it totally defeated the purpose. Now, my time off recharges and gives me balance…which helps me deal with my time on, and with the energy required to stay sober.

Happy Sunday. 300-somesuch days for me. I’m heading into a year in March, so that’s where my radar is focused now. I can’t believe it, and moreover, I can’t believe I’m LOOKING FORWARD to it! I have plans, and shit to do now. There are moments (stretches of hours?) when I want to drink for break, for reprieve, for job well done. But, I check myself (again) and remember that NO, this is just a reaction, a well-worn pattern. I don’t need to drink, I say, and then, actually, do I really want to? Won’t drinking as “break” lead to me not being able to work for the next few days due to being incapacitated by a hangover? I want to get my work done more than I want (or “need”) to drink right now. And, then, it all makes sense again; the craving subsides; and I simply (automatically) do my “go to’s”–talk to my boyfriend, turn on the TV, scrounge around the kitchen, take a shower, stretch, or go to bed.

And…tomorrow arrives. One more sober moon, one more sober sun. YES.

Baby steps, or faith in…? Something, at least

10 Oct

10:43 pm

And, sound the trumpets! I pitched my first “real” science story today. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I’m hoping anyway.

For some reason, I’ve stopped worrying about money this week–the making of it, I mean–and have had a surge of story ideas. The kind of surge I used to have, back when my brain was working, fluid, and open to anything and everything being a possible “story.” I had forgotten about the “fun” part of this job because I’d been so busy killing any and every idea I had before I even gave it a chance. Ideas, any and all, plus the ability to pitch them and then, not care if you’re rejected–that’s the heart of this profession. It’s been a while, as you know.

Drinking. Man. Drinking. What good is it? It fucks with your motivation, your reward system. It messes with your ability to learn. It ruins your powers of concentration, of focus. It zaps your energy, so you feel lacking in determination, in initiative. That “oomph” that I thought was gone for good? That I was SO SURE was never coming back, months and months into my sobriety? It is slowly but surely coming back.

And so is the reality of work. Of sitting down and reading and researching–for hours, days if need be–to at least tease out an idea enough to be able to say, this is (or is not) a story idea that I could research and pitch. Did I not know this was part of a journalist’s job? Sure, I did, but I guess I “forgot.” Conveniently, when it was much easier to drink wine than it was to follow through on any of my ideas with sustained effort. Did I just spend too much time at the recovery fair, so to speak (Joan Didion reference!), that I lost sight of the fact that I am not exempt from hard work? From actual effort? Did I expect it to be handed to me, or was that the byproduct of all the thought-wrangling involved in quitting drinking? Because I’ve spent SO much time figuring out this sobriety thing, don’t I deserve everything else to be easy from here on out? NOT.

I don’t know. But it’s coming back and it feels damn good. Good to actually WANT something again. Friends, it’s been SO long, and I’ve been feeling my way through the dark, existing on hope and dare I say, faith. Faith, yes. Faith that somehow, this shit would improve. Somehow, I would mine an ounce of authentic (as in, not forced) motivation and interest. I’ve been reading lots of science magazines and combing through scientific articles this week, not only being interested, but remaining interested after hours of work. Who is this new person? (I have to say, the sciatica has subsided a lot lately, and that is a huge relief; I really don’t acknowledge just how much my back pain has interfered with my life, do I? Of course, I don’t; this alcoholic loves to think she is supposed to be in pain all day, pretending that it’s not affecting her mood and focus. Sigh.)

I also seem to have some distance now, in the form of a MUCH more solid foundation of self-appraisal as well as perspective on what it means to “succeed” and “fail” in this business–and to take little of it that seriously. To have some fun with this. And, to learn to see when I’m becoming too tunnel-visioned and say, OK, deep breath, it’s not that big of a deal, take a break, think about something else. There’s just…balance here now, in my life. I never had any sort of “balance.” I’d heard a LOT of people talk and read and write about that elusive “balance,” but I could never pin it down and define it for myself.

So, maybe this post is about balance. And baby steps. Being OK with the baby steps, taking them even when I’m afraid or am CONVINCED that they’re too small/going to lead to nowhere fast.

This morning, I was thinking about how things have changed since this time last year. I sat down at my computer and noticed the line of folders stacked up along the left side of my screen–all of them are personal projects. I’ve had so many ideas for so long, but none of my personal writing projects ever got started, let alone worked on enough to even be labeled a project worthy of its own folder on my computer. I drank away my time, out of fear–fear which is with me even as we speak–how on Earth could I ever make any of these things happen?

Now? Lo and behold, I have projects. Some just begun, others being quietly plugged away at. And, I’ve realized that this “getting projects started” thing is very similar to quitting drinking. It’s baby steps, little by little, and it hurts and it feels awkward and painful and “I just can’t do this shit…” And then, you’re doing this shit, and it stops being shit and starts being something that you’re doing, that you CAN do and you WANT to do. For example, freelance writing: initially, for me, lots of blunders, lots of fear. But, every day, that fear goes away, I pitch more, my projects are slowly but surely increasing; the fear of being “found out” for the alcoholic fraud that I am (think I am) is going away. I am no longer a fraud; I am no longer hiding behind a bottle of wine (or inside one, more like it). I am doing the shit now, and the car keeps rolling down the hill. I’ve realized in all this healing and navel-gazing that “failing” is part of the process of moving forward. Failure is not the end. Failure is a node, and things happen at nodes.

I want to be where things are happening.

Brussels sprouts and Saturday night!

24 Aug

11:58 pm

I never used to like cooking for people. It made me feel really uncomfortable–almost more uncomfortable than eating in front of people. To me, cooking for someone was like me taking a megaphone and putting it next to the collective ear, blaring “I never eat so how could I know how to cook!” And it’s true: a lot of my bulimic tendencies can be traced back along a winding thread to core issues. I never felt safe expressing my feelings, and I somehow felt very strongly that eating was a form of self-expression. Cooking, too. If I was afraid to let you in on my feelings, of COURSE you couldn’t watch me eat, I used to think. And, if I couldn’t show love and affection, of COURSE I couldn’t cook for you either.

Before drinking, I had food issues. Not exactly of the eating kind, though I did binge (compulsively overeat, I think is the technical term that matches most closely what “afflicted” me from about 17 to 21 or so). It was more an emotional block surrounding food: when I ate in front of people (not when I binged, then I felt release), and when I cooked, I felt emotionally exposed. And, it was a horrible feeling.

When it comes to cooking for others, the first thing that usually comes to mind for many women is cooking for “our manz.” You know, you’re supposed to be this mother Earth (sex and food) goddess, who just so happens to know how to keep her manz by making his belly feel good and round and full. (Yeah, the concept made me want to throw up a little in my mouth, too–literally.) I never had a manz until later (my first boyfriend showed up when I was 22), and by that time, my cooking “skills” consisted of being able to feed myself semi-regularly. Which, as a diagnosed bulimic, wasn’t going so well.

I feared being judged. Of COURSE, I can’t do this right, my self-esteem issues willed me to believe. And, believe I did. It wasn’t like I was a klutz, I just had no practice at opening up and sharing how I felt. And, this somehow transmuted into me being unable to serve people. I was afraid of what they might think of not just my food, by of my expression–was I easy-going or uptight, warm or cold, abundant or sparing? I believed I was all the bad, an uptight, frigid, pared-down “nervous ninny” who had NO business trying to feed anyone, let alone a crowd.

Looking back, I feel sorry for how harshly I judged myself.

Anyway, it took me YEARS to be able to feel safe enough to begin cooking with a boyfriend, let alone serve him food and be able to simply enjoy him enjoying it–and not take it personally, like he was rejecting my entire emotional being if he didn’t like it. I HAVE cooked for a group, mostly with family members (they don’t count, in my book) and my current boyfriend. I made a pie once for an ex, and by the time I was done, I was so shitfaced I can’t remember much except that the dough was a lumpy, uncooked mess when I took it out of the oven. I don’t remember if I cooked it more or not, but I knew in my heart that he thought it was almost as shameful as the way I drank (to quell my nerves throughout the entire process). What an ass, for not telling me to quit–both drinking and making pies while drunk.

Fast forward to now, 159 days sober and having just spent the evening working on my latest creation: pureed brussels sprouts! I know, weird, right? My host mother in Paris (I studied abroad during my junior year in college) would make it all the time, so I think I just felt like going back. WAY back, as almost 20 years have passed since I was there.

It turned out well, I must say. What I truly love about cooking is the “art project” nature of it. It’s like my form of art project; and the best part is, it’s completely not intellectual and the product is kind of WAY better than like, a poem or a painting. I mean, you can fucking EAT IT! I love using the ingredients that I have, and guessing what I should substitute in for a missing one by aroma. I love smelling things, and I love imagining how two or three different ingredients could, combined, amount to an approximate texture or taste of something else.

What the FUCK does this have to do with being sober? Well, foremost, I wouldn’t be doing this on a Saturday night if I was out at the bar, drinkin’–the entire process was a three-part one, starting with steaming, followed by food processing and then blending. If I wanted to look on the dark side, I’d tell myself that I *should* be out, socializing instead of holing myself up, making fucking brussels sprouts puree. For God’s sake, it’s not even a main dish! (And, even worse, I just made that, nothing else.) Or, I *should* at least have attempted to subvert the old ways of thinking, invited a few peeps over, and we could’ve, you know, made dinner together–including but not necessarily limited to pureed brussels sprouts.

But, I’m NOT going to look on the dark side. All in due time, or, baby steps. I like cooking, so why not? And I’ve come a long way toward not only cooking, but being able to enjoy the process of sharing food. I also feel like cooking is an art project, something that I can do that doesn’t resemble thinking-based, improvement-oriented hobbies (reading, writing, playing an instrument, etc.)–good for someone like me.

And the best part? I never once thought that drinking would have made tonight better. If I had been drinking, I’d probably have ruined my taste buds, oversalted, eaten WAY too much and woken up the next morning wondering where the hell all my puree went (not to mention, brussels sprouts are not something one wants to binge on, believe me), and/or passed out before I finished. Instead, I’m enjoying the memory of sipping a few hot, savory spoonfuls as I type this blog post to my friends in the good, old “sobersphere.” Now, that’s something to toast my fourth (oops) Diet Coke-on-ice to!

Life is too sweet to be bitter

25 Jul

4:52 pm

I came across a story today that about Kris Carr, and it totally inspired me. Here’s her final quote of the piece:

I think that life is just too sweet to be bitter. Once I was able to change my focus, desperation led to inspiration. I made so many changes, and I thought: This is an awesome life. I mean, honestly, I don’t think anyone has a better life than me. How can you live with the knowledge of cancer? I might not ever be able to get rid of it, but I can’t let that ruin my life. . . . I think: Just go for it. Life is a terminal condition. We’re all going to die. Cancer patients just have more information, but we all, in some ways, wait for permission to live.

For many reasons, this struck me as relevant to sobriety. It strikes at the core of what we avoid as drinkers: we wait for permission to live, we live in fear, we don’t just Go For It. Once we change our focus, we can go from desperate to not drink to inspired to live life.

Today, I’m reconfirming my commitment to running more, embracing the challenge of developing balance in my life, and giving up (trying to) the Diet Coke. If there are small things I can do (juicing might come soon, why not?), then let’s DO THIS.

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