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Mental illness should not be a moral failing

28 Jul

11:24 am

So, because I’m either a cynic/pessimist, or because I’ve been around the sobriety block and tend to see deeper into things or events than the average “normie” and apply my perceptions differently as they relate to my long-term sobriety–YES, my presentation went off successfully, but I did learn a few things.  I learned that PTSD is real, the brain connections made to enable such a state are powerful, and using drugs to help yourself recover is not only not a bad thing, but a professional method toward recovery.  I learned that my real voice needed to be “let out of prison,” that some/maybe a lot of people relate success to willfulness only and not to a variety of factors (some of which, like mental illness, you are not always in control of), and of my own strong desire for approval from others.

In short, I mentioned the other day that I had been alerted about a month ago by my direct boss that I had to participate in giving a team presentation to our larger group/team at our group meeting that happened just this past week.  Upon hearing the news, and for the next month, I worried and obsessed–and prepared.  I have had a major fear of public speaking and stage fright surrounding this for about 13 years (since an incident in graduate school), and I simply HAD to deliver this time around.  I knew that if I didn’t get help, I would not be able to get up there, I would disappoint my big boss (my boss’s boss) and team yet again (I’ve had, as it goes with stage fright, major issues even introducing myself to the team at past events), and I might even jeopardize my job!

So, I freaking made it happen.  I booked an appointment with a psychiatrist, got a prescription, then used said drug at various public speaking “test” events around my ‘hood all throughout the month of July to see if it worked, and how much of it I needed to take for it to work.  Fast forward to the day of my talk–effing FINALLY–on Thursday of this past week, and WOW/HOLY EFF, I rocked it!  I got up in front of the crowd, and all of the sudden, this deep sense of calm came over me; I just stood there, folded my hands in front of my legs, and began speaking, interacting, and generally, performing at a level I never thought possible for me.  On the flight home, I came up with this as to how it made me feel:  the real me was released from my jail cell, and not only that, set free into the grass, where I danced, literally, to celebrate being free.  It was like, the real me was finally able to come out and perform–I was finally able to show my team who I was, how prepared I usually am, how committed and invested I am in this job, and how well I am doing the job, or at the very least, trying to do it.

It didn’t go unnoticed:  everyone, including my big boss, complimented me; she even took me aside and told me that not only did I do a great job, but that I had improved very much over the past three months (we last saw each other in April at another conference).  Which brings me to my first point:  how come I was now considered competent and successful, just because I was somehow (um, thanks pharmacology) able to “overcome” my stage fright and perform like a “normal” human being?  I mean, I am always competent, whether I have mental illness or not; it’s not my fault I have this type of stage fright/mental illness; and, it’s not something I can control.  BUT, having it does not preclude me from also being competent and succeeding at my job.

Another thing I realized was how much I was simply craving not just her approval, but the entire team’s.  I mean, I was SO wanting her to say, I approve of you–and she did, more or less, for the first time since I started this job. I felt SO relieved and reassured when, after complimenting me, she actually talked to me as a person (we had never had a real conversation before); and, later throughout the day, I felt somehow more or less included in the upper tier/managerial team (I am not really part of that team, but at my age and with my title and experience, I SHOULD embrace that type of role, if offered).  UGH–I mean, I cannot deny that that was exactly what I was craving, but it sort of startles me that I need approval that badly.

In any case, I am not only flying high, I am super-relieved.  Of course, there will be other conferences and meetings, and of course, I’ll have to decide if and how I will use the medication (there aren’t many side effects, but there are some; also, if I was a masochist, which I kind of am, I might want to keep attending my public speaking group events here at home to practice speaking without the medication–I don’t foresee myself EVER being able to be as calm and “competent-sounding” as I was on Thursday without that medication, but, you never know/stranger things have happened).  For now, though, I am flying high, grateful, and SO ready to put that behind me and move on.

Moving on, indeed!  In other news, we’ve decided to move back to our island!  I won’t say too much about that–it’s been a long 1.5 years here, struggling to learn, evolve, grow, and rediscover ourselves; and, we’ve both sort of found what we were looking for (for him, he doesn’t want what the mainland has to offer, and for me, I can take the parts of it that I know I want–I can work this nonprofit job remotely from there–and leave the rest, which I discovered in the past 18 months I actually don’t miss, want, or need).

Anyway, I just wanted to share the happy news that while I did succeed at my speaking event, it wasn’t without a few major personally-vexing revelations–welcome to long-term sobriety.  (oh, and of course, there was one night where I was SO burnt on the interacting with other people that I craved a glass of wine–but, no can do, folks/le effing sigh)

Facing my fear of public speaking

6 Jul

10:22 pm

And, it’s about time, eh?  It’s only been 13 years!

Seriously.  I’ve had what some call fear, what others call performance anxiety or a social phobia around speaking in front of groups for 13 years–ever since that fateful day in one of my graduate school seminars where I literally lost control of myself and shut down during a group presentation.  I am sure I must have drunk the night before, so there was some element of alcohol involved, which probably served to heighten the feelings of panic.  A few months prior, I had also had my first literal panic attack in another class, so my nerves had already been rewired/primed for panic by the time this incident happened.

What actually happened was what happens now, every time I speak in front of any group, whether comprised of strangers or friends:  my heart starts to beat UNCONTROLLABLY hard; I can’t breathe; I can’t speak; and I feel SO nervous and amped up by all this stuff going on inside my body that I feel like I’m about to pass out.

Before these past few months, I’ve been able to straight up avoid EVER talking in front of groups.  Of course, I’ve had to endure these occasions once in a while–saying goodbye to a group of fellow volunteers on a volunteer project; saying my name and what I do in front of a group of my coworkers–and they have felt utterly horrific.  My heart pounds, my entire body starts shaking, my voice starts wavering, or, I just can’t breathe and start to dart around in place, wishing with my entire being that I could just GET THE EFF out of that room.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I found out that I have to give a (short, probably not a big deal) presentation for my job in front of my (small, only about 20 folks) team at a group meeting in July.  UGH.  I’ve literally been obsessing about it since I found out a few weeks ago–like, extremely nervous at even the thought of standing up, talking, trying to figure out how the heck I’m going to remain standing.  I haven’t even been able to imagine past the first few seconds of my talk.

So, I decided two weeks ago that I just need to resolve this–if not solve my problem, then somehow resolve it.  I made an appointment with a psychiatrist, hoping/thinking that he’d prescribe me either Xanax or some other benzo used for panic attacks.  Come to find out, there are tons of people just like me, and they are all using beta blockers!?  The doc gave me a prescription for a beta blocker; long story short, I went to a public speaking group the other night to “try it out,” and uh, I actually stood in front of a group of strangers willingly and talked my head off–no nerves, no aversion, no shaking voice, no sign that I wasn’t “a natural,” as several people who congratulated me after I came down told me.  (what a fraud, I laughed on the inside; hey, whatever it takes, the other me shot back)

Either the drug worked, or I just didn’t feel that much anxiety in this particular situation.  The people I was speaking in front of were warm and welcoming; strangers; no one related to my job, I thought.  Hmm.  There was no sense of, I have to perform my JOB AS A WRITER, which is connected to this talk, PERFECTLY, or someone somewhere is going to find out what a fraud I am, what an imposter!

I am fairly sure that this drug will help me–it’s already sort of stopped that creeping sense of anxiety I had even just a few days ago, thinking about my work event–to “retrain” my brain, at least a little.  I’ve witnessed that I can get up there and actually talk in front of people without that horrifying sense of fear and panic, and that has somehow already rewired me to feel less nervous about the upcoming work thing.

Still.  What if I was just not nervous enough because these people have nothing to do with work?  Because I don’t care what they think?  Because I felt safe there, and not judged?  It’s interesting to me that this sort of PTSD surrounding talking in front of groups revolves not necessarily around all groups, only groups where I am performing and that performance is based on something that I feel insecure about (apparently, writing).

What surprised me more than this discovery–I kind of knew that this is a form of PTSD; what I didn’t know what how intertwined it is with my sense of imposter syndrome related to writing and journalism–was how empowering and relieving it was to dredge up my drinking past, my panic attack past (related to my drinking past) with an actual psychotherapist!  I haven’t really talked about it in years; I stopped going to AA years ago, too.  It was nice to just get it out there again, in the open.

I am so tired of this old story about my fear of public speaking; I wasn’t always like this, and I have to believe that nothing is impossible, that this story I have told myself for 13 years is not forever truth.  I have to believe that I can tell a new story about myself when it comes to public speaking–and frankly, I AM starting to believe that it could be as simple as some medication and exposure therapy to at least allow myself to survive these public speaking situations.

It just feels good to have finally stopped running from what has obviously affected both my professional and personal life for almost a decade and a half.

Now, we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out at my work even in a few weeks.  Sure, I am dreading it, but with this medication and a few more practice runs at the public speaking group and other events (maybe speaking at an AA meeting?), I might just survive.  (I am not looking to THRIVE as a public speaker at this point, just survive; and that’s good enough for me right now.)

Where’d DDG go? I’m right here, Elliott

9 Mar

11:44 am

And like Elliott, it’s been so long since I checked in on him, he grew up into a man!

Hi, guys.  WOW, I don’t think I’ve chased around this much in my life since, well, I worked a full-time job back in my cold, big-city days.  And even then, I managed to ALSO live a double life, drinking away four, five, six hours every night.  HOW on EARTH did I work, eat, work out, AND drink five hours every night–and still maintain a handful of friendships, an often-bordering-on-broken romantic relationship, and make phone calls to the family every Sunday night?

In case you haven’t been reading my oh-so-interesting posts about my struggle with what I’m just calling “hot flushes” (as opposed to hot flashes), let me quickly say:  I have been having this “thing” that happens to me pretty much constantly, wherein, my skin feels very hot all over, but I also shiver.  And I don’t sweat.  And this lasts for hours, days, weeks, sometimes months at a time.  I chalked it up to perimenopausal weirdness that I can’t do much about.  However, when I went to a gynecologist, she was like, that doesn’t sound like hot flashes; and then, when I went to an endocrinologist, she was like, the symptoms you’re describing, I’ve only seen in ONE other patient in my entire career, and, your blood tests say that you’re body is hypothyroid but your symptoms are hyperthyroid (figures).  So, there might be more going on here than I originally thought.

Anyway, this is all just to say, the way I’ve been dealing with this is by taking a hot/cold shower at night, which means, over about 20 to 30 minutes in the shower, I change the temperature of the water from hot to cold, eventually ending with cold when my skin can tolerate it; somehow, it like, “resets” my body’s interpretation of its temperature.  SO WEIRD, I know.

As I was methodically going through my nighttime routine last night, I was like, huh, what would my nights be like now, if I was still drinking until 2 or 3 or 4 am?  I mean, would I still be drinking?  I would definitely not be taking care of myself the way I have to each and every night these days, just to be able to get to sleep; like, maybe I would just pass out and avoid feeling the body heat, avoid having to meditate myself down from feeling stressed about it, avoid having to take a series of deep breaths (I have what seems to be related irregular heartbeats, too–doh!)…?  Would I just pass out and avoid it altogether?  Probably not, which means, I’d somehow have to juggle it all.

Which, well, I wouldn’t be juggling it, and my life would be falling down…

And it just made me see how important my sobriety actually is right now, and how grateful I am to be ABLE to care for myself at night (and that doesn’t include forgetting about it all by passing out).

This year, 2019, has just been blowing me over–I will bend, but I will not break, one of my high school teachers used to quip.  And, I guess that could sum up the past three months for me, being bowled over by the seeming-hurricane winds of my neverending to-do list!  It’s all good, though, and I’m glad I’m making it through the days–and the nights.

Since the last time I blogged, I’ve become entrenched in my new job.  I started it about three months ago, and I feel like I haven’t looked up from the page since then.  I have to preface this by saying, it IS a nonprofit, and I DID have some inkling about the workload (large), but, I am constantly reminded that I gave up a job that was pretty cut-and-dry for something that is anything but that.  I will say this:  there are things I like about it, and things I don’t, and that’s where I’ll leave it.

There is one thing that stands out, and that is having to–gasp–speak in public at a work retreat the other week.  If there is anything that causes me anguish, aside from nighttime body heat and insomnia, it’s gearing up to speak in front of a group.  I may have talked about this before on my blog, but when I was in graduate school, I started having panic attacks related to drinking; and then, during one of my seminars, for which we had to give a lot of individual presentations, I suddenly froze up, my heart start hammering in my chest, and I became so anxious that I could barely speak.  One of my generous classmates stared me down, and as we locked eyes, she was able to move me out of that place.  From that point forward–that happened over a decade ago–I have not been able to escape feeling the same intense physical reaction to speaking in front of a group.  Someone recently told me that it sounds like PTSD.

Well, at this work thing, I had to do just that–I have been successful at avoiding it, but really, you can’t avoid it for the rest of your life; there will be times when you have to get up in front of a group of people and talk.  And, of course, all the same things started to happen when my name was called:  yammering heart, whirling mind, the literal inability to breathe such that, I come across as either winded or stuttering when I am actually talking.  But, because I had no choice, I started talking and just went through it.  I apologized a few times, stumbled over my words, was breathless at least twice and had to stop and inhale and apologize again; BUT, I went through it, made it to the end, and by the end of those five minutes, I was at least still talking.  And breathing.

It was good for me to see that I could get through it.  No one is going to die, I thought.  With that new knowledge, I realized, well, if I can get through it by just going through it to the end, sticking it out to the end; then, I should be able to apply that practice to my night heat–I just have to go through my routine, wait to cool down, and wait to fall asleep.  I don’t know why, exactly, but it was just really empowering to see that I COULD get through speaking in public–it was painful, and I will avoid it, but I CAN do it, if I have to–the same way that every night since I started my new routine, I eventually DO cool down, and eventually do fall asleep.

Of course, you can apply this to sobriety!  You CAN get through those nights of horrible cravings, those days of zero-dopamine lack-of-motivation, those months of want and lack and sadness about losing your “everything.”  You can and will get through it if you just keep going.  Just keep not drinking, no matter what and how you feel.  You will make it through to the end.  No one is going to die.  You got this.  (notes to self, literally, in my journal every day, to this day)

Oh, what a night

8 Oct

11:27 pm

I have been thinking on and off all day about whether I should write about this night again–the Sunday before Columbus Day, 2009.  I mean, I think about it every single day because my arm hurts every single day, doing yoga or working out, or fully extending it; it is shorter than the other one, as a result of the way it healed beneath the shoulder cap, which literally took weeks to unfreeze after I stopped wearing the sling!  I wrote about it years ago on this blog, when I was, I guess, processing how traumatic it was years after it happened.

The thing is, I feel like I must recap, and commemorate, if I’ve been thinking all day about it.  And, I will write about it because, well, it’s amazing how things have changed, and I’m grateful that I didn’t let it define me.  Yes, I think about it, and it does haunt me; but not in a way that I still feel like a victim, or was somehow unable to move on emotionally.

In brief, I got shitfaced that night, got into a verbal fight with the dude I had just slept with–or attempted to mess around with; I will never know because most of the night is lost to the blackout–we physically fought somewhere outside his apartment, on a sidewalk; he pushed me hard, and I fell down and broke my arm.  I was in one of my blackouts, which happened almost every night I drank by that point; but this was one of those severe ones, black hole-type memory blanks where not just hours are missing, but the entire night is gone.  (If you’ve never blacked out, let me say:  if you have any memories of that period of time, they’re like shards of glass on the floor, each one reflecting a glimmer of light for a moment before it turns dark again.)

It was right about now, getting on toward midnight (on a Sunday; granted, I had Columbus Day off the following day, but YIKES to me routinely starting my nights at midnight, weekend night or not), and I went out to–let’s face it–hook up with this guy whom I really despised but could pretend was someone else while I was uber-drunk.

Isn’t that what we do?  That is exactly what I did.  I mean, MOST times I got into bed with someone I had been flirting with all night, fueled and numbed by wine or beer, it was not because I wanted him, or her; it was because they filled the role of the fantasy I had created while drunk.  I’ve written about this before, but really, when I drank, and flirted (during the years when I was drinking to excess to escape and numb), I drank and flirted with my own mind, with what I was creating or had created in my mind that night.  It was all delusion, made even more delusional by the booze.

Anyway, what I think happened was this:  we drank; and after drinking, which I don’t remember the details of, we were somewhere outside his apartment, in some shack, or cottage, or garage-type building, and he was telling me that we had to go out there because his daughter (who was like, in her 20s) was inside, staying over that night.  The last thing I remember was him putting a blanket down, and me feeling like, WTF, what am I, a dog?  Of course (of course!), this man was super-gross, and he treated me grossly every other time we hooked up; but, that was what I was willing to accept because I had my needs, too.

Yes, I had my needs.  I needed to flirt and feel wanted–even if it was in a delusional state; at least he wanted me, right, is what I must have told my drunk self?  (Nine years ago, I was in no way “unfuckable” or “unloveable,” but at that time in my life, I think I sort of believed that was true.  I was also terrified of relating to men as my sober self, for fear of rejection, or the effort it would take to be myself, to be a partner when all I wanted was to drink, really.)  I needed to get shitfaced to be able to pretend that he was someone else, maybe an ex that I hadn’t really yet gotten over.  I needed the release from always listening to the voice in my head that said, You shouldn’t do it, You shouldn’t be like that.  I needed to get drunk, physically and psychologically.  Devolving into some other horrible version of myself was the price I was willing to pay.  Until…it wasn’t.

Until, the booze wore off enough for me to come to, for the writer and professional and good Midwestern farm girl to come back online and be like, WTF, what am I, a dog?

I remember fighting, screaming, being belligerent at him; I remember walking on the sidewalk–it was cold outside–storming off somewhere, maybe?  I don’t know if he was following me or I was chasing him, but…I remember him pushing me down in the cold night, falling and bouncing off the cement on my right shoulder, realizing with some momentary lucidity that something “really bad” had probably just happened.  He said that I attacked him, and maybe that is true.  He fought back, and hard; that is also true.  After all was said and done, he didn’t really care what had happened to me.

It was like a dream sequence, and I wasn’t sure if it was real.  I remember nothing from that point until I woke up at about 1 pm in his bed–and the pain.  OMG, the pain.  Not to mention the pain and anxiety of being hungover/still drunk, after a night like that; and then having to stumble out of bed, put my clothes on with one arm, and wander to not just one, but TWO emergency rooms in the city,  both being full, before giving up, getting into a cab, and going home to sleep it off so that I could actually think straight to figure out my plan as to what the EFF I was going to do about this shit now.

Long story short, I had help from my friends and roommates–the select few people I ever told what really happened–and the arm eventually healed.  I have to say, that night was probably the most traumatic of my drinking life, but it wasn’t by far the worst thing that happened to me.  It’s been the hardest to let go of, for some reason.

I gave my consent, but all the reasons behind it were convoluted and very personal–and, influenced by alcohol-induced delusion.  I gave my consent, but it was SO not what I wanted.  So, did I deserve what I got?  Sigh.  Most of the time, I say, yes and no.  I don’t believe anyone deserves to be in accidentally disastrous situations–I don’t remember picking a fight with him, he didn’t really mean to literally throw me down onto the sidewalk.  I also don’t think most people CHOOSE to try to understand what happens to people when some of us drink.  They will never know, which is why any and all of this is so hard to talk about, to explain, to reveal.  But, he didn’t force me to do anything.

I think this relates to Me, Too, but I am never sure how to talk about nights when you choose to drink and choose to flirt but then…find yourself in a situation that does not feel right, that you don’t want to let happen.  It’s so hard to talk about it without someone feeling either blamed or unheard.

I would not say that I was raped that night.  There are other nights where what happened was much closer to rape, but…there was ALWAYS alcohol involved, and always an element of consent on my part.  I was never ambushed at night, or assaulted at a party; I always played a role in getting myself into these types of situations.  I can say, though, that I didn’t hold onto these events the way some people do; and maybe that speaks to the difference between “some consent” and “no consent”?  I don’t know.

SO, today?  Today, I spent the day cleaning the apartment, walking my dog, and lifting weights  at the gym.  I have started doing more of that, and I love how it makes me feel:  strong inside and out.  I think it makes me feel a bit like, look at me now, Loser Who Pushed Me Down.  I will NEVER let anyone push me down again!

Seriously, my life nine years later has so moved on, and for that and so much more, I am  grateful.  I can’t forget that night, but I am glad to be able to feel continuous relief and gratitude that not only will that never happen again, but that I survived AND thrived in the years since–I didn’t let it get me down, or make me believe that that girl was forever me; that I was broken, that I couldn’t change.  Fact is, I rocked on, and I changed.  People can change.

On that note, off to bed because another full week.  Just super-glad, still, to be here, and not there.

 

Oh, hello, 2018!

4 Jan

4:26 pm

Does it feel to others like 2018 has come in so quietly it’s almost snuck in?

This year is going to be all about transitions, crossings, and changes–and, of letting go of the reins, or at least, loosening the grip.

Welp, without much fanfare–and with some anxiety–2018 has arrived.  2017 went fast, flew by, sort of took my breath away; and, I had a feeling it would, when by the beginning of February, I had already flown across the country for work, and was embarking on the first of  several (months-long) job interviews (none of which I was offered, but that’s OK).  In fact, last year was all about searching–pushing and planning and striving and trying SO hard to see…the future.  I took a lot of trips, my favorite, of course, being a solo journey to South America (man, I can’t even believe that happened, what with how the hurricanes have changed the course of our lives)…  All this is to say that, last year was so much about trying to move the Earth, and sort of succeeding, but mostly just laying cable and putting up with all the frustrations that come with trying so hard.

Last year, I think my “phrase” of the year was, move the Earth, or something like that.  I guess I moved it a little bit (I started on a big writing project, and that is the one thing, aside from moving, that I want to get done this year).  I moved around it a lot, that’s for sure.

This year?  Shit.  Let the damn Earth move itself.  Let it happen.  Let it go…

Gratefully, I am bouncing back after a few weeks of pretty intense sadness:  our dog WAS diagnosed with canine lymphoma, and…yup, major tears all around.  Wailing tears, to be exact, for a few days in a row, and then…acceptance.  This is happening, and there is no cure.  He’s only 9, and far too young to be looking like an old dog now, but…this is happening.  We aren’t going to treat him in favor of making his last months somewhat bearable with prednisone (though, that stuff is making him really, really groggy).  I have started him on this weird diet thingie I found online, so I’m hopeful (yay, hope!) that this might turn it around and land us a miracle.  There’s always the possibility of a miracle, I have to believe.

So, there’s that that’s been literally keeping me up at night.  Oh, and we’re moving, too!  In a few weeks!  Like, a big move, across the continent!  This, too, is happening.  We’ve sold my car, arranged for our landlady to buy our household full of stuff (so she can rent our place furnished), and are in the process of getting flights, flight letters for our precious babes (dogs), and all the other stuff that comes with moving.  My job is aight (but, another thing!  it’s ending in March!), and the only thing that sucks about it is that we don’t have anything resembling a good cell service connection at home anymore (thanks for nothing, AT&T), so I have to go out looking for Internet in order to work (and write this blog post).

Mostly, I feel excited, sad about the endings that are coming up, and on edge.  Like, I have been waking up almost every night at 4 am–after only about 4 hours sleep, which is exhausting and maddening–and it’s usually accompanied by anxiety.  Like, dark terre thoughts.  And, the next day, I feel anxious and depressed.  And, it’s made me realize that I have NEVER truly experienced this before, but now I can totally see the connection between insomnia and anxiety and depression!  Like, there is something about waking up at 4 am that makes me crazy–angry, panicky, and depressed the next day.  I cannot control my negative thinking the way I can when I am fully rested.

And, this just makes me remember how I used to get wrapped up in drinking thinking–negative thoughts and thinking patterns that are caused by alcohol, and not a part of me.  I used to think that all my complicated depressive thoughts were of me, but really, they were a part of the drinking.  It’s so hard to see that when you’re not sober; it’s very easy to see when you’re separate from alcoholic drinking.  Anyway, I guess it’s a reminder to be cool, and remember that it will get better.

Just a quick update to say, happy new year and that I’m looking very much forward to watching the Earth move itself in 2018.  How about you?

Not PAWS, but maybe PTSD?

16 Jan

3:16 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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