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Sober and feeling…”life”ly

1 Sep

8:15 pm

I could write a book here, but I won’t. Lately, I haven’t had much patience for media, in general; social media, in particular. That’s mainly because I do it all day long as a journalist–and when I’m not doing it, I’m thinking about how rejuvenating it would be to not have to check email and Facebook and my phone (and the news) ever again. BUT…as a writer, it’s a must, so I’ve learned to do it in moderation and put it away when it starts to make me want to hyperventilate. Too Much Information–time to Turn It Off.

So, I’ve been minimally blogging. Not that stuff hasn’t been going down: job interviews (’nuff said), and my interviews of people for stories that I’ve been working on, and in general, stressing about my income. What else is news? 😉

There has also been lots of dog walks, and runs, and beach swims, and snorkels…and, sort of continuing work on changing my diet (I had help in revising my tastes when I was on my volun-tour vacation, but I digress). I like my new diet, and frankly, I like having lost almost 15 pounds of “sugar” weight. The hard part of keeping it off in the face of mood swings and stress is there, and always will be; but I learned one thing: get out of the sugar-as-treat mentality as soon as you can after getting sober.

I think I’ve managed to get out of my depression after six long weeks of it. Bizarre. I’ve worked and lived as usual, but…it’s been hard. Maybe it wasn’t exactly depression, maybe it was just post-vacation blues. Or, maybe it was realizing that now, I really have to Work. Like, move-and-find-a-real-job work. It may also be related to coming back to a place that simply does not serve some big parts of myself. Or, it could be linked to the chronic pain I still have from the mosquito-borne illness I got while abroad–I read some studies matching this chronic pain to depression. It has been a very weird up-and-down ride since getting home (and I’m used to depression). I’m hoping once I’m working full-time again, and settled into a new “thing”–getting past the hump of just pulling the trigger on one possibility–things will look up.

I’ve wanted to drink a LOT these past few weeks–more than ever, or at least more than I’ve wanted to drink in the past year. I just feel like I have no reward–especially after parsing so much information on a daily basis. I need a break. A real treat, you know? But, I don’t drink. I can’t. I can’t be sure that I won’t immediately again start associating wine with reward, or wine with fixing my state of mind; and I know how simply exhausting this is. So, status quo, just don’t drink, it’s all good.

On that note, apparently my Labor Day weekend is over–I have some reporting and writing to do now!

Hope everyone is plugging away–it is worth it, it so very much is. Sometimes, I can’t believe how far I’ve come. And how much less I think, in general, about things that don’t matter. More on that in another post!

Now would be a good time to drink…

22 Nov

7:33 pm

Now would be the time to drink, if there is one. I just finished three stories and well, two months’ income.

I’ve already blogged about why “now” would not, actually, be a good time to drink: it’s November 22nd, and I still have to find December’s income. I still have NO idea where that money is coming from yet–could be in the form of an assigned story, could be in the form of a story or two that I have yet to pitch. Ugh. Freelancing. And, then, there’s January, and February, and March’s income. Sometimes, I can’t imagine ever feeling like I deserve to rest, a break, a reward. Do I?

I did it, though. I picked myself up this summer, worked my arse off to grind this business to a start, and actually did it. I know being sober has everything to do with it. This has been months, years in the making. And I’ve worked really hard to get here–not just to have those handful of stories, whatever. I’ve worked hard the way you all know that this revising-your-entire-existence-on-planet-Earth is hard when you get sober.

Sigh. I still want to drink tonight, though. As a reward. As a break. It’s what I always did. It’s what I’ve always done after filing hefty stories. I’ve EARNED this, haven’t I? I’ve been planning it for months, in a way: once I get to “this” point along the way in the freelance thing, then I can drink.

I told my boyfriend I was going to drink a “couple” of glasses of wine tonight, but in my heart, I know I’m lying. For all intents and purposes, I’m not in the mood to drink.

But I still “want” to. So, what do I do? I go and grab my wine glass, fill it to the top (cuz that’s how I roll; 6-ounce “glass,” my ass) with some homemade sorrel tea, and whoa, what a surprise! Sorrel’s got a tinge of an aftertaste, and it feels/tastes very much like wine. I put ginger (along with cloves and cinnamon) in this iced tea, so it sort of burns on the way down, and once there, simmers in my belly. And, by golly, it feels like I’m drinking wine! And, no shit, I “feel” the symptoms of being drunk.

When I got drunk, I’d feel the good feelings–happy, excited, caution-to-the-wind, big ideas–and I’d feel the bad–dizzy, brain coming undone, spaced out, tired, bloated, stomach burning. Sometimes the bad would totally outweigh the good, especially toward the end when the buzz didn’t even show up. Maybe it’s my association of these feelings, similar to the ones I’m getting from the tea, with being drunk that’s making me actually feel drunk?

In any case, it just reminds me of how NOT WORTH IT it is. I just feel down, tired, spaced out, and my stomach is burning. I have that sick, wine aftertaste in the back of my throat, and I’m going to keep taking swallows of that sick, tart wine and make that aftertaste worse. Stomach’ll keep burning, throat will reflexively gag, but I’ll keep downing that wine–every sip taking me further and further outside of my head. Pretty soon, I’ll be tipsy, which may or may not involve feeling buzzed; my head will start to hurt; I’ll start to feel really dizzy; I’ll lose sense of my chain of thoughts; and I’ll feel confused, like my brain is literally coming unglued, as if big chunks of neurons are coming unhinged from one another, cell by cell.

And then, I’ll be like, oh, a bottle is gone?, and I feel nothing but numb. Not better, just numb. And sick. And drunk. And…now $10 is gone, the night is spent, and I have nothing to show for it except…a horrible day tomorrow of being hung over, of not being able to work or do anything I had planned. Ugh. It just adds up to zero.

So, yeah. While I “want” to drink, I don’t. And that confuses me, because I feel both at once. I guess I’ll just refill my wine glass with more sorrel tea and pretend I’m drunk. Or, maybe I’ll go to the bar (my neighbors are leading a pub crawl at the bar up the road) and watch all the drunken people perform their stupid human tricks?

No good can come. No good can come. I KNOW this, but… I feel left out.

You know, I used to hate those cautious people, the ones who were like, “Oh, I better stop, I’ve already had two.” FUCK YOU. I was so impulsive when it came to wine, so impulsive and dangerous in my choices, my behavior. Now, I’m turning (turned) into one of those cautious people I hated! Maybe I always was/am too cautious to allow my inner zen to be disturbed–maybe that’s the real me, and I’m just having to get used to her being around again.

And, now it’s 7:50 and the night is too old for me to start drinking now. Plus, I wasn’t kidding, I think I’m really heading over to the bar where my boyfriend works to make fun of (feel glad it’s not me) the drunkards.

200 days plus 7 weeks = almost 250 days! 50 more until day 300, and then…?

Update at 10:51 pm: so, I went to the bar, saw some people, drank some pineapple and club soda, and ate some Roquefort cheese (ugh, not only cheese, but FRENCH cheese; all I could think was, This would go so much better with some French wine). And, well, I still want to drink. I still want that “break.” I still feel left out, and friend-less, in a way. I miss drinking to socialize, I really do. Oh, well.

Without this, I wouldn’t have that

29 Oct

10:30 am

Without this:

2013-10-28 19.21.10

I wouldn’t have that:

2013-10-26 11.31.47

Or that:

2013-10-27 06.46.32

Lack of motivation, or, My attempt at neuroscience

20 Aug

5:25 pm

Lack of motivation. Bored to tears is not just an expression. Maybe some days you’re simply not meant to get much done? Except, ahem, eating and drinking everything in the house. (Why is it that after quitting drinking, we turn to food and substitute drink? Is there something so hardwired about equating “food substance” or “something that is going into my alimentary canal” with “reward” that we can’t shake it no matter how long and hard we try?)

Today is OK–meh, actually–and I can deal with that. However, I’m having the usual brain fart: I find it difficult to hold my thoughts in form; like food that wants to be vomited up, my thoughts want to come out in fragments that don’t resemble much of anything that makes sense.

Is this writer’s block, or simply something I have to contend with from now on? PAWS gone wild? I’m hoping the latter, but most of the time, my patience wears thin. I don’t have time for this shit.

Once every few days, I take note of my motivation level, which seems to me to be pretty damn low. And, I think I’ve figured it out: maybe for so long I associated EVERYTHING–work and play, life in general–with drinking, now my dopamine circuits can’t (won’t?) fire for anything without the attached reward (wine). It goes almost without saying that that sort of freaks me out, considering that I need to like, eat and work and laugh, whether or not (not) there is wine involved.

I’ve come to the conclusion that “normal” people–and even a lot of drinkers who did not fall as far as I must have–simply cannot understand this. Their dopamine circuits still allow them to desire to do many things, whether or not booze is in the picture. Like, eating, or going to the gym, or working. I was actually vaguely aware of how much I relied on the “reward” of wine in order to motivate myself to do any of these things toward the last few years of my drinking. And then it got worse: I skipped eating altogether; I only worked out in order to both be able to drink more and maintain a modicum of health such that my body could continue to drink more; in the end, the only thing that got me through my often painfully intellectual day was the reward of wine after having gotten through it and, later–it got even worse–the reward of wine DURING said day.

It was a neverending cycle, and I’m not sure how I ended up in its claws OR how I managed to extricate myself. Maybe throwing up a bottle of red wine at 3:30 am and then drinking an entire OTHER bottle before getting up, showering, and getting on the commuter rail by 7:20 am became one of those few-and-far-between memories that could override the need for wine? Uh, maybe.

Dopamine is involved not only in giving you pleasure, but in making you want to seek out pleasure. Motivation to do, or in science speak, to perform behaviors that are associated with pleasure. Now, if EVERYTHING you do–for me it ranged from running to writing to travel to talking on the phone with friends and family–you associate with the reward of drinking, and you place a high level of importance on this reward, eventually your dopamine circuit is only going to fire to motivate you toward these associated things as long as there is the reward of wine. If there is no reward of wine, there is no dopamine, and therefore, no motivation. (I’d like to do some interviews on this, but I think this is the gist of it.)

When the associated behavior/triggers are going out to bars, or hanging out with friends, ditching the wine isn’t the end of the world. But I associated everything with drinking.

Now, I feel no strong urge to do anything. I work because I NEED to, and I run and eat and read and hang out and go swimming and take care of the dogs and plant shit because…I know it’ll make me feel better, eventually. I do love certain things, of course, and living sober is amazing, don’t get me wrong. I just have to think my way into wanting it all, more often than not. Some days, though, all that future focus cannot cover up the present lack of reward. And, what’s worse, I’m afraid (worried) that this new normal might not right itself anytime soon.

With all that in mind, I continue to do and strive, and get about 25 percent of what I want to get done actually done every day. And I’m learning to accept this, and not judge myself. This is the only way, I somewhat resignedly tell myself. You got yourself into this, now you have to (and can) get yourself out. Is there another way, though? Does it have to be this hard? I honestly don’t know…

Anyway, I don’t mind waiting, and right here and now is a pretty good place to take a seat. Happy Week 22 plus 1 day to me! By Saturday, I will have passed my longest record of 158 (almost) days sans booze. Wowie. Thanks to ALL OF YOU, for listening and cheering and empathizing.

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