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300 days, and it’s getting better

13 Jan

12:42 pm

Well, here we are! Well, were, since 300 days came and went. And, to be honest, it was a day like every other: some ups, some downs, but mainly just stressed about finding money! I don’t know…it was just there.

When I think about how I spent my day, I really have to take a step back and say, Wow, that’s remarkably better than how you were spending your Sunday’s just a few years ago. Yesterday, I got up at the usual time, 10, which was fine. Early enough to have some morning left. I did some chores, took the dogs for a long walk, spent about 45 minutes chatting with my landlord/neighbor/friend, catching up on her holidays and future plans–a really good way to make myself feel more of a part of “things.” I came home, made some lunch (a spinach salad with some basalmic-oil dressing and some pasta), and then, followed up on yesterday morning’s yoga class by trying to replicate it on my own mat. Afterward, I meditated/dozed off on the mat, until about 2. I spent the afternoon trying to boost my mood to get myself to “do shit,” but I just couldn’t find the energy. My boyfriend came home from work, and we/I spent the evening walking the dogs along the back hills, grocery shopping, making dinner, talking to my mother for about an hour (I really need to call her more so that our conversations can be shorter!), and then, “binging” on our Netflix show du jour (Dexter).

I also made sure my dog got her meds in the morning and evening–she’s on doxycycline for tick fever, and she was prescribed a shit-ton of pills (a whole month’s worth, so four a day!).

Why so much detail? Well, if I was drunk/hung over, my day would NOT have included anything related to self-care or care of others/animals. It would have resembled what is unfortunately familiar to all of you: in bed until 3 pm, feeling sick, confused, and panicky, looking through my texts and email to figure out what I might have done or said last night; finally heaving myself out of bed long enough to make ramen and tea, eat that, and then pathetically slump back into my bed, feeling still drunk. I might have gotten up by 5 or 6 pm, as the light was leaving the sky, to get some air, walking a short few blocks up and down the city streets, alone. I probably would have called my mother, and then it’d be about 8 pm. Since I have no dogs to take care of in this scenario (no plants either), no boyfriend to share anything with, and no story pitching to worry about–because I have no freelance business–I’d probably go out to the corner store, buy a bottle of red, and drink that down while binging on a random assortment of Netflix shows (Intervention, Breaking Bad, or Lost were some of my favorites when I was hung over–sad, in a way, except for Lost, which I never quite remembered because I was drunk). Of course, the red would be making me feel at ease, and mainly, helping me to forget my hangover, another wasted day, and the dreadful feeling that I am missing out on SO much.

It’s the little things…but I can’t tell you how they really do add up to one HUGE thing. Like, the fact that it’s just normal now for me, expected that I wake up before 10, to take care of my dogs, to give my girl her meds on time, every day. The fact that it’s a given that I’ll have the desire to prioritize yoga, meditation, and a spinach salad on my day off–and not wine wine wine wine wine. The fact that I have someone to share my day with–that I’m not afraid of intimacy anymore (I was terrified of it, and everything that came with it, when I was drinking–it’s one reason I drank, to both avoid it and hide from my fear of it). The fact that I’m able to talk to my neighbors, that I have an outlet for feeling alone–that I see that others need me as much as I need them, that this is how it works, building community from the inside out. I don’t have to walk around alone in a cold city; I get to do it with someone else, among trees and sun.

I get to choose all this, and I get to choose to approach it with a positive outlook (that often means just ignoring the negative thoughts, the stress, the anticipation of the worst). And, I am aware of all of this, and of how good all of it is, and of how much better it is with this choice. It doesn’t always feel good–I have doubts and anxiety all the time–but it is better, that’s the truth. I look back and think, I may not have known I was dependent on wine, but I knew (believed) that I didn’t have a choice–especially when it came to the negative self-talk about how much my life sucked/how much more I wanted out of life that I didn’t have, which inevitably led to me drinking my nights away, one by one. And then, entire weekends. And sometimes, entire weeks (toward the end, I spent a few ENTIRE WEEKS drunk around the clock=yikes).

So, yeah. I don’t want to overemphasize the negative, but this post is just to say, it creeps up on you, the GOOD, and the BETTER that everyone (at meetings) bangs on about when it comes to getting sober. Sure, you sober up–there are a lot of realities I am facing now, and most of the time, reality comes with fear (whether that reality is actually anxiety-producing outside of my overreacting mind, I am not sure). But, you also GET. You get a lot. And most of it is in small changes, incremental ones that build upon one another until one day you wake up and you’re like, OK, wow, so I might want that glass of red, but honestly, I really can’t see going back to giving up all this–I can see it now, I have it now–in exchange for the “buzz” of alcohol.

As Dan Savage says, it gets better. Sometimes, getting better doesn’t mean what we want/think it should mean, though. Getting better is more complex than just feeling better–isn’t that what we tried to do when we were drinking, feel better? We never GOT better, though.

And, I guess I’ll fix my counter to 365 days on March…18th?

Letting others take responsibility for…

7 Oct

11:38 pm

Their anger.

Their sadness.

Their confusion.

Their lack of sense of purpose, of self.

Their lack of trust, or faith.

Their joy.

Their “luck.”

Their change, or growth.

Their happiness.

I have been working on an “amends” with my brother for almost two years. Two years over ONE incident in which I blacked out and screamed mean things at him and his girlfriend, mainly at his girlfriend.

The other night, we finally talked. After months, maybe close to a year.

I got the impression that my brother was drunk. It made me smile (in an “oh, the irony” sort of way), and cringe a little. He finally asked a question about my boyfriend, which rubbed me the wrong way anyway (mind you, he’s never before, in the near-two years we’ve been dating, even acknowledge him as being in my life). And, he’s never ONCE asked me about my sobriety, how any of that is going. Not once. Ever. It’s relevant here because, if it was such a big deal, isn’t my getting sober part of that big deal now, too? Or, shouldn’t it be?

I don’t feel that pissed anymore, just sorry. Sorry about what happened, sure, of course. But sorry, too, for them. Sorry that he can’t forge the courage to call his own sister because his girlfriend is telling him he can’t. Sorry that she and he are in a relationship where she fans the flames of his anger and resentments–to match her own, many of which are based in her early-life trauma (psychological problems, incest, rape). Sorry that they don’t have any friends. Sorry that they don’t want any friends. Sorry that they might not see any of this; sorry that they seem to feel the pain that it causes anyway. Is it I who is in pain here, though? Am I unhappy because they seem unhappy to me? (Some of it is that they ARE unhappy; some of it is that I am projecting my own goals and values on them, for better or for worse.)

What I realized in all this is, everyone is responsible for their own happiness. And to grant people that responsibility is you telling them that you have faith in their ability to tackle what I would consider life’s hardest challenge–to live without resistance, i.e., be happy. Me saying I’m sorry a million times, and worrying about whether two “co-dependent” people are going to forgive me–this does me no good. This is meaningless, actually. I don’t have to care about this outcome, and I don’t have to make them happy. I don’t have to worry about whether they’re happy or not.

See, I think I’ve spent a LOT of time in my life not only caring what others think about me, but shouldering–internalizing–their responsibility for their own happiness. For some reason, I feel guilty that my brother, or my mother, or my father, or my boyfriend, or my friend is unhappy. I drank over it, in one way or another. It’s taken a lot of work, actually, to see this tendency to want to please taken to the extreme: the need to solve everyone else’s unhappiness!

Sigh. Deep breath. Like I said, I carry this around, like a burden. It’s so deeply ingrained in me that I’m barely conscious of it–this “ability” to see others’ pain and lack, and then, my habit of not letting that go and leaving them to tend their own gardens. However, when I quit drinking, it was staring me in the face, and there was no way around dealing with it. And, once I started learning how to let go, even forcing myself to “not care,” I became MUCH happier–more balanced, had more time and space to focus on my own self, my healing, tackling of cravings, even probing into deeper mental realms.

Some people don’t like it when you leave them alone, though. They don’t like it when you hand them back their issues and say, Here, this shit is YOURS, bitch (Breaking Bad reference!). It’s a rejection, and an abandonment. I’ve felt that way, actually, when certain friends (and even my brother) have told me to get a handle on my drinking…and then literally disappeared, walked away. I felt abandoned; it was unfair, I felt, and it hurt.

It was the catalyst, though, for me learning to finally stand alone, and take charge. Whether there is anyone to lean on or not. And, I could do it. I CAN do it.

So, this handing back responsibility is also a way for them to say, And, I know you can do it. I have faith in you; I know you can take responsibility for your own happiness. It’s a way for them to say, I can’t do this for you, and you can’t do mine for me–but, hey, that’s life, kiddo. We are ALL responsible for our own happiness.

This is not to say that amends aren’t important. I have to say that I don’t think I would stir the pot in the case of most of the people I’ve hurt and/or offended; it’s over, and revisiting the hurts would cause more damage. I do, however, believe that continual effort on my part to conduct my relationships well, to handle my end of the deal, is key to dissolving any and all remaining bad karma. I guess.

I wasn’t pissed at my brother after hanging up. I wasn’t dubious, or sad, or emotionally changed in any one direction. In fact, I just kind of let it go. So be it, I thought. If they’re still pissed, that’s their problem. Literally. And, problems can be solved. Just with this one, it’s not going to be by me.

Cutting back on…sugar, and old habits

28 Jul

10:55 am

The past two days, I’ve tried to ix-nay sugar completely from my diet. Um, YEAH. Gotcha.

I’ve realized that cutting out sugar entirely, immediately–instead of weaning myself off–will lead to sugar withdrawal, which I guess I had a bit of yesterday: I was sad and lethargic, and felt like my brain was hovering around “off” for most of the day. Sigh. No more extremes. (And, with sugar, I don’t think it’s prudent to be so black-and-white about it.) So, I think I’m going to start by cutting BACK on Diet Coke–maybe one a day, if I need it, or two if I’m indulging. I’ve been drinking at least a liter a day regularly for about nine months?, several cans a day since I quit drinking, and at least a 20-ounce of regular Coke every day since about 2007. I’m sure I drank soda before then, but it was mainly coffee (in the day) and wine (at night).

I noticed I drink Diet Coke like I drink wine, fast and furious. However, there’s something more dangerous about drinking liquid sugar; you can drink and drink and drink, until you get sick, but you won’t black out or pass out. Which means, you can keep drinking more. PERFECT.

It was interesting to watch my mood swings yesterday, and me push through them. It was like I was on autopilot, and my sober mind had taken over. I DID have a craving to drink–a pretty big one. I haven’t really seriously thought of drinking for a while, and this was minor, but big enough to have to turn on the virtual “this is the shit that will go down if you drink tonight” movie in my mind. I counted the number of weeks I have left to get to 22, which was close to my last sober record of 158 days. But then, I took a magnifying glass to what, exactly, I wanted, and HOW, exactly, I was planning to effect that change. The “how” part was new: I’ve gotten myself to reflexively look at what is tripping my drinking switch, but never how to turn it off.

I could very clearly see that my sadness wasn’t necessarily brought on by a sugar low, though that was part of it. I was, and am, lonely. I don’t have many (any?) friends here. I don’t go out. EVER. I could admit to myself last night, on my run, that no, I still haven’t accepted let alone embraced socializing sober. It’s not as strong as it used to be, but I’m still convinced that “there is no point” to going out and not drinkin’. (By go out, I mean to bars and clubs.)

Then I thought, well, you have two neighbors who are free tonight, why not ask them to do something with you? Granted, I had planned to work yesterday, which means that Saturday night or no Saturday night, I am trolling the journals and (for a new project) slogging through complicated stories on the latest in cancer research and treatment–that’s just how I do. However, I didn’t ask, or invite. I think I might have felt better if I had forced myself to socialize instead of doing the usual, which is running alone on the beach and/or working on a Saturday night.

At one point in the run, I simply concluded that I am still living, in a way, like my “old drunk self,” simply without the booze. By that I mean, I still isolate (prefer to be alone), I just don’t do it with wine. It takes a LONG time to change our ingrained habits and defense mechanisms, doesn’t it?

It’s not easy for me to socialize, mainly because I FEEL like I don’t want to, but also because it’s just not in my nature (habit) to engage instead of isolate. “Make yourself available,” is what one of my old roommates used to tell me. That was over a decade ago. I was isolating then, I am isolating now. I guess maybe drinking gave me a way to isolate and not feel bad (or anything!) about it.

Sure, it’s nice to be alone sometimes, have a weekend by myself. What I do, though, hasn’t changed since I hung up my drinking shoes: NOT inviting people over, out, or IN to my life. I wanted to drink to avoid this realization, but that was pointless; there it was. I ran more. I wanted to drink to not feel slightly angry at myself, defeated, and sad. Within about a minute, or less, I had worked out that no, drinking would not fix any of this, and no, actually, I didn’t want a drink. What I wanted–needed–was real change. To feel better. And, how can I feel better? Change my habit of isolating.

The point is, the craving came and went, but I was able to see through it. What was making me want to drink, and what I could do–besides drink–to fix the problem. I was looking for solutions to the real problem, and not just a way to dodge the craving for wine. Wolfie has no clothes, as it were. I can see right through to your scrawny, starved frame, your salivating, dried-up tongue…FUCKING FUCK YOU, WOLFIE!

I am on Day…? 132. 19 weeks tomorrow. I suppose 22 weeks plus 4 days will be my immediate goal, but I’m truly curious to see what comes after six months. Will there be glitter? Balls of it? Will there be unicorns with sparkly teeth, smiling at me from a chorus line on the beach? Or, will it be more like a Broadway musical? Maybe a Broadway musical with glitter and a unicorn parade?

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