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That’s me in the spotlight, losin’ my religion

24 Nov

1:56 pm

It’s weird how a length of sobriety just kind of makes you grow the fuck up.

Sort of, anyway. 🙂

I was breezing through “the past” last night, and that past included sometimes torturing myself by checking out web sites like Last Night’s Party. I mean, let’s face it, it IS tortuous–if you’re the kind of person I am–to see other people who are “cooler” and “more in the know” getting their party on. The kind of person I am (was) was too shy to wear anything like that, go anywhere like that, hang out with people like that. When I lived in the big city, I definitely tried, though–tried my hardest, if my drinking to excess had anything to show for it.

Someone, somewhere along the way told me that that’s what “the cool kids” do, is go out and have fun. And that, having fun means getting shitfaced and dragging your hair in someone’s (your own?) vomit during a dance move that exposes your ass and thong underwear to everyone in the house, and then, taking off your clothes and making out with/letting someone feel you up/having sex with a stranger.

Now, I’ve been to my fair share of parties, and done my fair share of nonsense, including all of the above. But, there is something about this site that always made me feel…less than. Envious, in a way. Like, not only was I not partying with “famous” people, but I also wasn’t partying THAT hard. Or, hard enough. Or, hard enough to be “young.” And to this day, going on that site reminds me that I’m “old,” or getting there–the days of being young and silly and drunk, hooking up with strangers are over. And, my biggest question to myself is, why the FUCK is this a bad thing?

What I’ve noticed lately–it’s hard not to; just look at some of the ways the half-naked drunk women are rolling around with their glasses of wine teetering in one hand (posed shots, or not?)–is just how glorified drunken promiscuity is. Maybe it’s just our rape culture–we don’t just use women as objects, men are plugged into their role, too (why on Earth would so many college boys think that it’s in any way OK to rape-while-drunk?). Now, I’m not religious, and I’m not that much of a prude. But, I just wonder, why are women being told that this is not only acceptable behavior, but that it doesn’t come at a price? NONE of these shots show the reality of getting drunk, naked, and promiscuous: the risk of assault, or catching an STD, or…losing your soul one hookup at a time.

Every time–and I mean EVERY time–I hooked up with a stranger while drunk or blacked out, I lost a little bit more of my soul. When I met the man who was my friend and is now my lover, I wasn’t even sure if I could have sex sober. What I also realized, once I confronted it, was how shattered my soul was. I had to collect the pieces off my astral floor (haha, just had to throw that in there!), day by day, week by week, month by month–I had to process the reality of all that promiscuity. Of how it drained me. Of how it distanced me from myself, which during the drunkest times in 2009, was becoming darker and darker–if soul acts like a full moon reflecting the sun, then mine was a patch of night sky, a hole of dark ink.

While I grapple with putting my “youth” behind me, which has been so heavily marketed and branded as something you can only have if you’re drinking in dark bars, doing “dangerous” nighttime things (that, let’s be honest, WERE fun in the act); I also grapple with continuing to put my soul back together. And, I wonder, WHO is going to stop using women (and men) with glasses of wine sitting on their raised asses, posing for doggie-style sex, as selling points for a life that is truly not worth living? WHEN are we going to represent that “dark” and “dangerous” lifestyle realistically, with its morning-after regret and decades-later soul loss?

I might just be speaking for myself, as I’m sure there are plenty of people who like having sex with strangers, drunk or sober; who love the excitement they find in it. I wanted excitement, too, but I also more simply wanted to feel loved, to fit in. I drank to blackout for the excitement, for the “opposite-of-bored”; the promiscuous sex was almost an unwanted byproduct of that desperation–I didn’t like it, and I didn’t want to remember it. I liked getting buzzed, and flirting, and letting go…but, it didn’t matter who I was doing the buzzing, flirting, and letting go with, you know? When I drank, it was for me. It just so happened that sex (or something like it) was usually how it ended, and it was better if I didn’t know about that.

(There were also bigger things, like self-loathing, a certain darkness inside–I mean, we all love Depeche Mode and wonder about dungeons, don’t we?–and really, this idea that I somehow didn’t deserve anything better than sex on a cement floor with someone who was at best, an asshole, at worst, abusive.)

On this Sunday, I am in a somber mood, thinking about all this. But, it’s part of getting sober. And, it’s part of solving–or at least pondering–a larger problem here that I can’t begin to get into but that I know affected me and my drinking LONG before I even picked up that first glass of wine.

Choosing not to drink…because my life depends on it

26 Jan

4:01 pm

Literally. Having a life depends on me staying sober right now.

I’ve been seriously thinking about drinking the past few days/weeks. I mean, why not? The other night in bed, I got a text from a friend, who is 40, I guess will be 41 this year, who just popped out her second kid. As usual, I felt the wind-tunnel-in-my-gut feeling, and then, the curtain of sadness. It’s brief, and irrational–I’ve done some awesome shit in my life, right?–but…it got me thinking: I have to make some decisions.

Moreover, I have less than a year and a half; said another way, I have 16 periods left in which to get preggers.

It’s not so much that the possibility of not having kids of my own makes me sad, it’s the fact that I LET so much time pass, so many opportunities. Did I let life roll me over? Did I stay with men who were noncommittal, like me, out of fear…or was that just the way it went, was supposed to go? I mean, I am definitely of the pre-online dating generation, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t have gotten on the bandwagon in 2005 or 2006 and like some of my friends, made a list of “to do” and “to have,” and got on with it. Like picking a career, or a place to live, or a job, should I have prioritized having kids in this way? Instead, I wasted a lot of time bouncing around in my 20s, and didn’t really pick a career (one that, of course, I’m no longer happy with!) and start on it until my 30s. How could I have both invested most of my 30s making a career for myself in journalism AND finding a man and having kids? It just seems that no matter what decisions you’ve made, you’re going to end up regretting your choices in some way(s).

I think I’ve spent the past decade, at least, drowning out the inevitable, NOT making a choice and then drinking to avoid the entire affair (not choosing, feeling bad about myself for not wanting to deal with not choosing). Now, with less than a year and a half until I turn 40, I wonder: is it really too late? Could I have made any one of the shitty relationships I was in work, back then, if I had chosen to have kids? Would I have picked different men, or more importantly, would I have stood up for myself and forced us to decide? It’s hard to tell, but one thing I do know: drinking played a major role in where I am today. It’s not that I’m unhappy to be here by any stretch, but I think if I had gotten sober earlier and stopped using wine to basically avoid these so-called “hard” and “scary” decisions… I don’t know.

I’m a biologist; I know that I’m not unique, reproductively-speaking. Every year counts, once a woman gets past 35. Past 37, every month. I don’t think I want to be childless at 50, I really don’t. I don’t know why, and I’m not sure I can even stomach the thought of giving up all the dreams I still have in order to raise kids, but… I don’t know.

What I do know is, these things can’t wait to be examined, just shy of 90 days sober or not. At 20, I remember having All These Options. In a way, I still think of myself as 20, or 25, or 30…not pushing 40! How do I reconcile the sadness of realizing that my options are vastly different now, if not limited, and the necessary acceptance of this truth? I have to accept it in order to move on, but more immediately, in order to not freak out and start drinking alcoholically again.

Happy weekend?

90 days sober!

9 Jan

11:59 pm

Wow. It’s HERE. It’s really here. As of today, January 9th, 2013, I am 90 days sober. I made it!

Actually, this is my third try since last summer. I quit drinkin’ the day after my birthday back in June (I had had ENOUGH after yet another drunken night of being alternately up and down, yelling at people, and passing out in the middle of important things, like, um, making out with my boyfriend), went for 60 days, drank twice during the next 2 weeks, went for 5 weeks, then drank, oh, several times over the next 3 weeks before I finally–after a horrendously hungover flight from [big city near my home town] to [beautiful island where I now live]–gave up. That was 90 days ago.

Over the course of these 90 days, things have definitely changed. Majorly, in some respects, subtly in many, many others.

If I think back to June, things have changed immensely. I made some huge, and important, life choices–giving up my place (and all that entails) in [cold west coast city] and relocating most of my belongings back to my storage unit in [cold east coast city] was one. The “and all that entails” was confronting (or, in my case, avoiding confronting with any kind of maturity or grace) some of the emotional baggage from my first time in [cold west coast city] (I lived there for 6 years prior to moving to [cold east coast city] in 2005; I moved back to [cold west coast city] in 2010 for a job), which I’ve detailed in past posts.

What I’m saying is, it wasn’t easy starting. It wasn’t easy continuing to not drink through the fear, the worry, the “wolf” voice in my head yelling at me near-constantly that wine would make it better, that life was literally impossible to do without it. It wasn’t easy getting here.

Moving to the [beautiful island where I now live] wasn’t easy. Deciding to dive in and start freelancing wasn’t easy. Going through withdrawal (for I’d say, 6 weeks of a low-grade “flu”), starting this blog and opening up about my drinking problem–that sure wasn’t easy. Going to my first AA meetings here, on said island, was definitely not easy; reading the Big Book and coming to terms with my own opinion and beliefs about AA and “The Program” wasn’t/isn’t easy. Dealing with constant “God DAMN it, wine would make this SO MUCH BETTER/EASIER” pangs was/is probably the worst thing I’ve ever had to do; thankfully, thinking through these thoughts, rationalizing myself out of drinking over them, and practicing this over and over–in addition to doing what I would say is a “personalized” version of the 12 steps–has allowed me to at least tuck the pangs in for a nap.

Those are some of the big ways my life is different. It’s the small ways that are SO abundant, and so rewarding. While today is my 90-day anniversary, it was just like many of the past 90 days: I woke up relatively early, with no hangover and no regrets; I made coffee and walked the dogs, soaking up the wind, the sun, the water, the sky; I went jogging; I went to an AA meeting; I made cupcakes to celebrate my soberversary; I finished an editing project; I commented on some blogs; I wrote a blog post; I kissed my boyfriend. I mean, my days seem simple, but yet…they’re brimming with possibility! Flourishing, actually, in spite of any and every habitual notion I have of containing them.

And, each one of those “simple” acts and actions reveals a major step forward, personally, for me; and most of them, I see now, involve conquering a grander fear. None of this conquering of fears (like, doing it and doing it and doing it until the fear is less than my faith) would have been possible if I were still drinking. It’s that simple.

Fear? Well, the fear of life without wine, first and most important of all. I mean, I was afraid of doing a LOT of things sober. Like, eating dinner, going out, having sex–you get the picture. I worried about the “weird and awkward” moments that were SURE to come up. I didn’t believe that I could do them anymore without wine, or the reward of wine more precisely (I think I ONLY made it through journalism school and my job as a science reporter with the reward of loads of wine at the end of my days)… I guess I just had faith because I saw–thank God(dess)–that I truly had no other option.

Now? Well, I’ve done it. Felt the fear and did it (well, many of them) anyway. Had to say, Wow, THAT was weird and awkward, and then shrug my shoulders and move on. And, what a HUGE RELIEF, knowing that I CAN do these things without being buzzed, AND that I’m actually starting to truly want to do them sober.

I’m HERE, which means I actually made the decisions that led me to give up my place in [cold west coast city] and move down, which could only have been preceded by me actually confronting my sense of loss, my fear of change, and my apprehension of Things Working Out, both personally and professionally. I was not only afraid of geographic change, I was sort of TERRIFIED of being in a relationship, I see now. Of getting to know someone; of someone getting to know me. I used wine to hide from that truth–for years, actually–and the more I avoided it, the worse I felt and the more I wanted to (and did) drink! So, being here, with this wind, and sun, and water, and sky; with these dogs; with this person–it’s all because I began confronting (and continue; it ain’t over yet!) my fear(s) instead of drinking.

Anyway, 90 days. Like I wrote earlier today, I made a deal with myself that I’d go for 90 days and then re-assess. Well, all I can say is, I feel great, I’m regaining my powers of concentration and affect and memory (sort of), I’m LOVING the consistency of never being hung over, and well…yeah, the list goes on and on as to how my day-to-day life has improved by quitting drinking.

Was today any different than any other sober day of late? Not really. I thought about drinking a few times, as usual, but the thoughts are now accompanied by a quick ushering out. I can’t, is all I know. I could, but I’d drink four glasses, not one–I’d WANT four, this I know. Is an hour of “fun” worth 48 hours of time wasted, spent in agony? NOT. So, the loop goes back to the beginning with me not being able to drink… For now.

Well, there ya have it. What’s next? 6 months? Bring it on! 🙂

Sex and sobriety — it’s actually possible?

12 Nov

5:29 pm

Yes, indeed. It actually IS.

SAY WHAT?

Without going into too much detail — har har — I have a few minutes before yet ANOTHER PAIN IN MY ASS MEETING takes up the hours that I somewhat dread anyway, between 4:30 and 7; so, I thought I’d say hello and, um, dump some heavy thoughts on you. Yes, I’m good at that.

As has become apparent to me, most people who drink alcoholically are also doing it to medicate, avoid, or in general, escape. For me, I used booze. I used it for many things: to not feel bored, to not feel sad, to avoid confronting existential problems, like, What should I do with my life? and, How am I going to spend the next few minutes? and, If I spend them wrong, does that mean I’m a loser? or, Man, I don’t know what to do first, maybe I’ll drink to avoid deciding? or, I don’t know how to have fun or take a break, so I’ll drink to avoid dealing with figuring that out. And, on and on.

I realized, long before I quit drinking, that I had a very healthy fear of intimacy; sex, of course, but relationships, in general. I used booze to both avoid them and avoid having to deal with this fear while sober. As I discovered, you get exactly what you’re looking for. I was afraid of dating, of having sex sober, so I drank and got what I really wanted: pathetic, drunk sex with partners who were NOWHERE NEAR relationship material. (Then again, neither was I, and maybe that was also a variable in the equation!)

I have only dated three men in my life, long-term; the last actual relationship I was in was oh, about 8 years ago. Yes, I’ve been single for most of my 30s, mainly out of fear of being known; out of fear of someone — who is much cooler and better and more awesome, of course — finding out just how boring, or fidgety, or indecisive, or lazy, or uncreative, or [insert your favorite diss here] I really am. I avoided not just relationships, but sex. I simply couldn’t get myself to do it, sober. Too close, too intimate. What if we locked eyes and I had to reveal a feeling? What if he expected to have a, gasp!, conversation with me, sober? What would I say? Would he be interested? What if I was depressed, or unsure, or crazy, or kooky, but not his kind of kooky? Would he be OK with that? What if (IF? LOL) he was boring, or shallow, or clueless, or lame, or whatever, and I had to pretend to like him because I was lonely; or because I wanted to give someone a chance in order to feel less “strange bird”-esque for preferring to spend my nights — and days — alone, doing my own thing, at ease and deriving pleasure from that?

Best to just be drunk, to avoid it all, and then hung over, to excuse myself quietly.

What a horrible way to live, eh? And, what about me?, I ask, as I read and remember the self-berating monologue that must have been going on repeat in the back of my mind for years. YEARS.

I had a lot of social anxiety growing up, and it manifested in extreme shyness, in overstudying, in spending most of my non-school-related time alone, writing or reading; and then, sort of following my twin (or, did he follow me?) to the same university; and then, finally, discovering binge eating and binge drinking as a way to avoid it all AND make it feel better at the same time. Fast forward from my 20s to my 30s; I kept drinking the wine, and left all the other stuff behind. Or, so I thought.

Funny thing is, I had a LOT of intimate, and amazing, relationships with women over the years. And, with men who were not men I wanted to date or have sex with. So, it wasn’t all bad, but it got a lot WORSE when I started to drink to ridiculous excess, put work and career success way ahead of love, and isolate.

These days, I’m basking in the fruit of my labors: I ended up entering a relationship with a friend who I’ve known for 10 years, and I feel safe. I don’t know if he knows how difficult it was for me to basically feel the fear and do it anyway, but I’m glad I did. I don’t think there’s a magic bullet; like everything sober, it takes personal work to talk myself out of actually believing that it matters when there’s an “awkward” moment. I don’t think sober folks deal with anything different, either; they may have just learned to confront love and sex earlier than I did. Who knows?

Anyway, I could go ON and ON about this, but I’ll stop for now. Off to a new meeting. I’m a bit…anxious? I’ve never been to this one, and well, I haven’t heard much about it. My gut says that it’ll be weird, and awkward, but hey, Weird and Awkward are my closest friends these days and I promised them yesterday that I’d come out and play again today, so…

Bye, y’all! 32 days, btw!

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