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Staying healthy in the time of COVID

29 Jul

1:09 pm

Do I have COVID? Did I have it? What if I tested negative–can I still have had it? How will I even know that what I have is/was COVID and not something else? What if I get all the scary long-term symptoms?

I think we’re ALL fixating on these questions now, as we zero in on every little ache, pain, cough, or twinge. I know I have been sort of hilariously worried, so to speak, whenever anything feels off: a whisper of a cough one morning, and, I’ve got The Corona! A slight pressure behind my eyes, a passing shower, really, of a headache, and, OMG, I’ve got The COVID!

While I don’t think I’ve had coronavirus (yet!), lately, I have felt unwell–and that’s making me go, hmm. I have been feeling achey, feverish, fatigued. I mentioned in my last post that I think my chikungunya virus infection is back, and I’m still sort of convinced that this is the case. Chik-v, as I like to call it, is a mosquito-borne illness, similar to Dengue fever and malaria in the way it’s transmitted (through mosquitoes) and in some of the symptoms. For some people, it can go dormant after the initial infection and clearance, and then keep coming and going. I got it in 2014, and I’ve had it come and go once in a while; I haven’t had it for a long time, though, and I haven’t had it come back this bad.

When I got it, I had severe pain in joints that were already lame or weakened. For instance, my left knee cap has been straying off course for years, and it usually hurts when I jog or walk down hills. When I got chik-v, it was like, the virus made a beeline for this joint and moved in; it really hurt, moreso than other body parts or joints.

When the chik-v flares, I feel achey and a burning sensation in some joints, feverish, and just kind of blah. The aches I have today are quite reminiscent of when I was first infected, so I’m pretty sure it’s that. The feverishness? Well, hi, menopause. Who knows–I am hot like, 99% of the day and night now, so…LOL, I have stopped wondering if a fever means anything anymore. (Sometimes, I am worried that when they temp-check you, like at a local grocery store here, before you walk inside, they’re going to find that I have a fever and be like, you can’t come in, you have corona…and I’ll have to say, nope, just menopause.)

Not to go on and on about this, but I think it might be worth sharing. Past few years of bloodwork, my white blood cell count has come back high. Nothing to worry about, and the doc didn’t really say much about it. But, I have been wondering why. Is is the latent chik-v, resting in my cells, that’s causing my body to be on immune alert, so to speak? I often wonder, am I working out too hard? That’s really the only other thing that seems plausible to me since, sometimes, after a hard workout in the sun, climbing hills, probably in 95-degree heat and 80-percent humidity (I don’t even want to know what the “feels like” temperature is)–I feel under the weather.

I have the feeling it’s chik-v, and it’s been riled up because I’ve been taxing myself too much working out. Yet…I can’t help but wonder, could I have another infection, and if so, could it be corona?

I’ve been staying relatively well, otherwise, during this pandemic. I am not prone to the anxiety, I guess, that others (my mom) are feeling, in terms of not being able to socialize. It’s true that I do have a significant other, and I am grateful and fortunate to have that–others, like my mom, don’t. I don’t need a lot of friends, I guess, to be happy and feel safe; I need to socialize from time to time, but a lot of the deep thinking and emotional work, well, (in getting sober) I learned to keep to myself. When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I needed WAY more close friendships; I depended on my “tribe” for survival. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve stopped needing–or wanting–to be that open and vulnerable about my inner world. In this pandemic time, it’s probably helped that I’ve sort of always been able to be happy and imaginative in a bubble of only a few close people and pets.

For some reason, I haven’t wanted to cook more, or experiment more with random ingredients. I don’t know if I’m bored or lazy in the kitchen these days, but I would love to do more cooking (of things I’ve never made). I have truly sucked at reading more books–I am literally hanging my head in shame that I haven’t finished one book (yet!). Um, speaking of book–haha; I have a book idea (a few), and it’s in project stage, and said project is on my to-do list EVERY day, and EVERY day, I find something else to do instead of that! Haha. I’ll get there.

My workouts are strong, my job search has been going well–I made it through my video interview on Monday, now it’s a matter of waiting. There are good things, too, and we have to congratulate ourselves on doing the good things, on simply staying sane.

We are expecting our first storm of the season down here–it’s the ninth storm to form, the first to touch down, this year. I cannot believe how EARLY we’re getting our first tropical storm this year. By comparison, in 2017, when we were struck by TWO category-5 hurricanes within two weeks’ time (cat-5 is as high as it goes, so, a very bad season), Hurricane Irma was the ninth storm that year–that was in early September; we aren’t even out of July yet!

Anyway, the water is churning, the wind is rumbling the hurricane shutters, and we’re getting ready to just close up and sit tight for the next day, if not several days. Stay well, everyone, and I’ll see you soon.

This is community, not social media

13 Jun

12:44 pm

Hey, all. SO, I have been offline for a few days–it was my birthday yesterday, and it was one of those semi-perfect days that just unfold because you don’t make a bunch of plans and/or don’t put that much pressure on having the “perfect” day. ANYWAY, I ended up going on Facebook for the first time in literally 60 days, and what did I find?

The short answer is, not much! I only got three birthday messages, which might be because at some point, I hid my birthday from my profile (I don’t remember doing that, but apparently I did). I would normally have been bummed about that, because half the fun of Facebook was counting how many happy birthdays or messages you got from your “friends” on your day. I wasn’t bummed, though; I was just sort of like, eh. Aside from that, I really did not miss anything–maybe one event that I would have liked to have gone to, and maybe one or two things that I would have seen if I had been going on regularly these past two months.

What I didn’t miss was the overwhelming amount of not only useless and irrelevant information, but the inability to normally interact with “people” on the platform (normally, as in, what humans have been used to doing and what we are wired to do, which is thoughtfully and intentionally engage in a a social exchange, not a lobbing of comment here, sentiment there).

What I got in return was this realization that I was taking Facebook WAY too seriously–seeing how I never posted regularly, I can’t really imagine (and don’t want to) what it’s like for people who post everything, all the time. For me, it doesn’t mean that much after having been off for 60 days; when I’m on the ‘book, though, it’s like, that, inside there, becomes my world, the platform takes root in me and just sort of owns my mind, forcing me to seek validation from it.

Anyway, last night, I almost immediately found myself scrolling mindlessly again, not really all that interested in the posts, feeling actually more disconnected from people. I liked finding things out, but I didn’t like it enough–or more than I like/love–how clear and calm and FREE I feel when I’m not participating on this platform. It really just reinforced my desire to keep actually living, with intent; reaching out in person; finding out the news from actual people, local news sources, second-hand from my circles of in-real-life friends who are spending hours a day scrolling, mindlessly. I mean, the point here is that, I was mindless in my scrolling, and it was like, I wasn’t even able to engage with my so-called friends (which is maybe the point of social media, is that, you get to do and say whatever you want, in a relative vacuum). It was an exercise in frustration and disappointment.

I do miss “On this day/Memories,” but I have my photos and journal to remind me of my past life/lives, right? I actually miss my groups, but I can always go on every few months to catch up on those. I did miss a few events–someone’s going-away party; a business down here closing–but, eh, in the grand scheme of things, it’s SO worth the sense of clarity in not knowing everything about people in exchange for missing a few parties or events.

I have started blogging more in the past two months, have reconnected with this community, and truly get something out of blogging and reading/commenting on others’ blogs. It is a real exchange, a true sense of community–nourishing and stimulating rather than draining and boring! I am glad to be blogging more as it’s given me a comparison as to how one can connect and build community virtually, in ways that can actually work (for me, anyway). Social media dos not work, and I believe that it’s partly due to the lack of true exchange, a lack of anything but short sound bites (from you) and insincere replies (from others), insincere because no one is all that invested in you, in-real-life, unless you are actually friends (at which point, ya don’t really use Facebook to sustain your friendship, you call and/or hang out!).

Anyhoo, I had a good birthday: we actually went to a restaurant, where the tables were six feet apart, parties were limited to six people, and the servers has to wear masks. I mean, I felt fine, not in any way scared or paranoid. We have only had about 75 positive test cases in our area, which could be because there just haven’t been that many people tested rather than we just didn’t have the community spread that other places had. I will say that my family (living in multiple different US states) are really, truly scared. And, I don’t envy the sense of fear and paranoia that’s sort of infected the mainland alongside the coronavirus. I cannot comment on if that fear has been stoked, but I can say that people here are, in general, used to natural disasters like hurricanes (and the ensuing make-the-best-of-the-chaos-and-keep-living mentality that comes with these events) and therefore, I think, more community-oriented (what’s mine is yours, and vice versa; there were no land-grabbing wars around toilet paper here when the shortage arrived). That being said, it’s just going to take a while for things to go back to normal, but, they will; they very much will, whether we are ready for it or not.

Happy Saturday, all–may it be peace-full…

Socializing sober–there is no escape

26 Dec

11:27 pm

I hope all are having or had a good holiday.  We did, but honestly, I’m kind of glad it’s over, and I’m looking forward to a quiet New Year’s Eve with no plans (or obligations) and no cooking (or overeating).  Oof!  Back away from the chocolate, the cookies, the quiche, the chicken pot pie, DDG…

Maybe it was the move and all the work surrounding that both before and after, but I felt quite stressed this Christmas.  Like, I don’t have kids, I didn’t travel to family and so didn’t have to buy gifts for said family; it’s not like a have a ton to do–not like my friends who are parents, who have actual long lists of things they HAVE to get done and places they HAVE to be during the holidays.  I live on an island, for crying out loud!  Still, I felt like there was no down time, so when Christmas finally came–well, eve and day–I was kind of relieved when it was over.  Granted, I had a great time and am grateful for all of it:  we had some nice food, went to two sweet beaches, did a downtown event, ran into and/or hung out with some friends–but, I’m glad to be moving into a quieter week and a quiet New Year’s Eve.

I’ve taken a step back today, finally, realizing that it has been a LOT, our move, the holidays, the job; the unpacking and shipping and sorting and planning and pondering, ruminating on where to go and whether or not we should go there.  Now we’ve here, and it feels so good to finally be quiet enough, in mind and body, settled enough, to dream, to pause, to put thought to word.

All that being said, the holidays didn’t pass without some sober angst.  Sometimes, I do want to drink; I just want “my” down time, “my” escape.  It does get to be a slog, having to constantly be sober.  Of course, I am better at redirecting my thoughts and feelings, resetting, moving forward, but I do wish I could drink now and then (without the drama, the hangovers).

Anyway, when I was getting sober, the holidays were such a big deal:  I wanted to impress everyone, I stressed out a lot about how I was going to “navigate” the socializing with people who were not sober in any way, shape, or form (there is no avoiding socializing with people who are drinking or doing drugs down here, unless you make a point of only hanging with your AA or sober friends).  It was exciting, to move past and over those hurdles; now, it feels a little stale.  Like, I know I can do it, but why choose to do it?  Why not choose social interactions with people who are purposefully present?

Like, I know I can socialize with basically anyone, in any situation; and that is sweet relief.  It’s because I’ve had to practice working with, through, and around the awkwardness.  I think most of us have some form of anxiety around socializing and making small talk with strangers or people we don’t know that well; but, I don’t think most people have been forced to endure it and practice getting through it–instead, most people still use (drink or drugs) to escape the pain of having to be and feel awkward.  It’s not easy, and I totally understand why you’d choose escape over the reality:  sometimes, the entire conversation should just be trashed after it happens; but, you keep practicing having these conversations over and over again because you have no other choice as a sober person.

These days–and particularly on Thanksgiving and Christmas days–I noticed that EVERYONE around me was drunk or high.  I was like, wtf?  This is just irritating me!  To me, as someone who totally knows why one would use booze or drugs while socializing, it’s just an escape.  So, that begs the question, am I that boring that you need to escape by smoking weed?  Are you that bored out of your skull in this social situation with me that you have to do ecstasy at the table?  I mean, come ON.  I am ALL for freedom of choice, but, really?  It’s SO inconsiderate; not that they’re drinking but that they’re escaping, and from what?  Me!  The situation!  And, they don’t even realize it, which is something that someone who is not sober would, of course, not realize.  ARGH!

It’s not that big of a deal; here, there is always a deck to watch the boats from, or a beach to go swimming in when I feel the need to escape what feels almost burdensome, being the ONLY person sober in the group.  It’s something I wrestle with:  am I enabling them by not saying this to their faces?  Should I just hang out with different people if it bothers me that much?  For the most part, these peeps are friends and most don’t overdo it; but, it’s this thing and it bugs me–still, after all these years!

Anyway, we had a good holiday but I’m looking forward to some quieting-of-mind time the next few days, hiking the hills and smelling the grasses and tropical things, listening to the sounds of the night, and letting some of these thoughts go.  I don’t know what this year will bring, but I know I have to start emptying my mind of the negativity that is circular and eats away at all things expansive; I know I want to–and I hate to say it but it’s true–divest myself of the negativity in my life.  I HATE using that dreadful phrase–get rid of the toxicity (am I a toxic person?  you bet I am, just like you, but that doesn’t mean I should be gotten rid of)–but I really do want to focus on the positivity, on getting my fire back, on myself, frankly.  I know this year is going to bring some solid changes, and I think I’m finally ready for them.  I think I’m finally ready for the fruition part to happen…

No pangs for parades

16 Mar

11:54 am

It’s St. Patty’s Day weekend, and we all know what that means:  beer, green, parades, fun.

In reality, it means:  beer, brown (vomit), blurred memories of taking off your shirt or falling down or crumbling into a heap of tears inside a bar or on the curb outside the bar while the dude you met is looking at you with mock concern; or calling your ex and begging that you get back together while realizing, somewhere in the back of your mind, you knew you were never really together in the first place; a pounding headache the next day as you come to and realize what went down.  Oh, the fun.

I know how these holidays can trigger cravings for going out and getting shitfaced with the gang–the fear of missing out is intense, and intensely ingrained in our memory.  My neurons still pulse with those memories, I have to admit.

These days, there is none of that intense craving; there is only the whisper of a pang–if only I could have fun this St. Patty’s day–only the brief momentary life and death of a craving for what was.  And what was, we all know, was always a lie.

These days, there is only getting up on a Saturday, after a LONG work week, realizing that I made it happen, I made money, we are working toward our collective professional and personal goals (getting back to our island in the sun!); looking out at the grasses draped in fallen drops of rain, wondering only, should we go hiking through the marshland today or tomorrow?  (I love the marshland here, the white egrets and the blue herons; so gentle, so tentative, yet still so graceful, admirable, strong; I wish the world loved appreciated herons as much as I think it should.)  These days, there are no pangs for what was, because what was never was anything but pain, and fear, and avoidance.

On a side note, this weekend marks ONE whole year since our beloved beagle-boxer mix “crossed the rainbow bridge,” and that’s also something that I thought about this morning, as I was doing the obligatory check for events going on in my ‘hood on Facebook (I try to steer away from scrolling/trolling my news feed, but I usually give in, at least for a few minutes).  Our sweet son–I still feel almost as sad as I did that day; I still cry when I think about him and his role in my sobriety, and my life, and our days and years of shared love.  The good news?  I am not drunk or hungover thinking about it, and I’ve processed it (as much as anyone can process the event of a death).  The good news is that I won’t be falling down into a pile of tears on a curb outside a vomitous Irish pub because I am also drinking 10 beers while thinking about it.

These days, it’s just moving through the mornings, afternoons, and nights, without much of any pangs–I have so much more to look forward to, like watching a sunset from a tower overlooking marshland to the sea.  And, while this life is a million times better than getting shitfaced in an Irish pub on St. Patty’s Day, entertaining the potential to flirt and hook up (all at the same time totally NOT wanting to flirt with just anyone, or hookup at all; all the while longing for love, a special person, a life together–all of which I have now), there are still remnants of those old longings.  I push them away, as a matter of practice–I am sober, and getting sober is about practice.  Getting sober is about the process of practicing being sober–which includes recognizing the whisper, the faint memory of a pang, and releasing it into the space above.

There is no need anymore for pangs, for cravings.  I can let them go, again and again and again, until they are, truly, no more.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day weekend, all my fellow sober friends.  May your weekend be filled with everything you want–and maybe even some things you don’t–in service to your sobriety.  Ever growing, ever strong.  You got this.

Six months later…

24 Jul

6:01 pm

Well, tomorrow marks six months since our move, and uh, I am not sure how to describe our life here.  It’s definitely DIFFERENT from our life back “home.”  I mean, I work from my home office, so my life is relatively similar.  Yet, despite going out to see a lot of shows and things on our own, we don’t really have a social life, per se (as in, we have no friends!).

It seemed (key word) so much easier everywhere else–then again, I worked at an office in the actual outside world, everywhere else; OR, I had a social network in place before I moved there.  Here, we really didn’t know anyone; that really hit home when our sweet boy (our “bear,” our beagle-boxer mix) passed away in March.  Not having any friends or family around who knew him, who could comfort us because they knew us–that just sucked.  For the first time, I could see clearly how important it is to have family around when death (or suffering or tragedy) strikes.  I was able to glimpse how our modern ways–our lives of leaving, of moving around, of moving away–work against the benefits of age-old structures like family, and community.  I miss having a community who knows me, but I’m not sure what to do about it here.  A part of me just wants to go somewhere familiar–whether it’s where I used to live, or where I have family that now lives.

Truthfully, though, I have been feeling increasingly isolated simply because I don’t get out.  Nothing new here, and it’s been something I’ve been trying to work on or “fix” since I realized it was a big factor in my alcoholic drinking behavior.  I actually googled AA meetings in my new area, thinking that I’d probably be guaranteed to meet people there.  It’s been six months, and I haven’t really made any new friends; it is SO hard, for some reason, to make friends beyond acquaintances–is it me, this place, being in my 40s?  I don’t know, and I’m starting to sort of simply not care.  I want to let it go–if it happens, great, but if not, eh, I just don’t care–but I know I should make it happen.

I’ve also been sort of bugging out about WHAT’S NEXT?  I have been obsessively scanning job sites, looking for something, anything that I want to do–like, really, truly DO; really, truly invest myself in–and nothing has been popping out.  Nothing.  It’s like, I feel a combination of resignation to the work I do now (and the fact that it pays well and I can do it from home, for better and/or for worse) and laziness–I’m 44, and I’ve done this job/life search grind before, and I’m tired!  Still, I know I need new experiences, and I need to get out and meet people–hence, the obsessive searching.

I have been thinking of starting drinking again lately, but I know it won’t help or fix–and, I’m too lazy to actually do it (what work it would be to actually pick up again, no?) as well as I KNOW that there are SO many other more positive outlets for my boredom and/or frustration.  So, I come back to feeling grateful–for my background, for my privilege, and, yes, even for my obsessive nature (which has brought me to the point of being able to BITCH about staying home all day, writing, and earning a good paycheck).

What am I needing instead?  More interaction with people, for sure.  I (we) have sort of neglected or almost refused to get out there and get involved in this community (I used that word loosely, because it just doesn’t FEEL like a community to us…yet?).  That has to change, even IF we’re only here for a few more months.  YES, I was working from home the first three months here; YES, I then spent the next three months holed up in my office, working on this albatross of a writing project that I’ve been saying I was going to do for YEARS and finally actually did–so, there is that.  (The thing is, we both don’t really feel the desire to make it happen here, and I’m not quite sure why; will this “lack of desire” follow us, if we move to other cities on the mainland–or is it just something about this place that bugs?  The only way to find out is to actually move to another city on the mainland–or, move back to where we came from, which may or may not turn out how we envision.)

I don’t know, but being sober, and 44, and in a new place–and having the ability to totally work from home?  It makes making friends hard.  Not whining, just expressing what has been on my mind for a long time now.  Make it happen, I guess?

Still plugging away

25 Jun

11:35 am

It’s been a while, and some milestones have come and gone:  four years of having this blog, another road trip, an engagement (yup–me!), my mom’s 70th birthday party.

I’m still working my remote full-time job plus my part-time coffee shop job…  I haven’t been doing much personal or journalistic writing, for obvious reasons.  And, to top it off, I am sick again.  (Problem is, I can do all this stuff, but I don’t sleep well, and I can literally go days without getting more than 3 or 4 hours a night–adds up to me catching a chest cold in the middle of summer!)

All that being said, I am still plugging away at sobriety, recovery, and all the thoughts and ruminations that go along with it.  In fact, the other day, my fiance (haha–sounds weird) and I had the same conversation that we’ve been having since I got sober:

Him:  You never go out/be social; you’re a snob.

Me:  No, I’m not, I just [excuse after excuse after excuse].

It’s hard for me to discern WHY I hesitate to go out, and be social; so, I tried it the other day.  And, it reminded me of how effing social I used to be, and how hermetic I tend to be now.  And, it reminded me that I AM still social, but I think a lot more about it now *because I am sober*.

I could go into a long post about intimacy, and why I fear the fuck out of it, and how fear of intimacy and introversion connect–but, honestly, I just don’t get it myself.  I *think* I don’t like people getting to know me (which boils down to, I have low self-esteem), and I don’t have the energy to be gregarious (or, how I still believe some people want me to be) without alcohol.  I’m older now, and the desire to get to know ME above other people continues to drive me, too.

The thing is, it feels GOOD to be out there, to be involved.  Which is why I’m literally making myself sick working the coffee shop job–it really helps to stabilize/normalize me psychologically if I’m out there, seeing what’s up and who’s who (I see people, and most importantly, they see me).  It helps people trust me, which makes me feel better about myself.  I used to have a HUGE mental clusterfuck going on with being “secretive,” and where that ended and my introversion began.  Now, it’s with intimacy–where does a learned fear of letting others get to know my “horrible, flawed” self end and a hard-wired introverted nature begin?

It feels good to be social, this I know.  So, since getting back from our road trip, I’ve decided to stop bitching and start doing.  I’ve been social–gasp–THREE times this week!?!?  One night, I went to see a band play with my neighbors, another night I went to a “sound healing” ceremony at a local temple, and tonight, I’m going to see a Ted talks event.

I’ve come a long way toward sorting out all the confusion that getting sober brings when it comes to figuring out how to be and act in social settings–and how to be you, whoever that is now.  But, it takes effort to create and maintain a social life.  Does that mean I have a bunch of friends?  Well, that’s where intimacy comes in, and whether it’s as simple as me just being me and stopping overthinking shit–le sigh, for a different Saturday morning musing.

All in all, still plugging away.  And hoping to write more when the dust settles!

You stop complaining

21 Aug

9:35 am

Last night, I went out. That in and of itself is a big deal. LOL. (Not really, I’m just kidding: I do go out, but it’s actually quite rare that I take time off from work at night–I just work through–to prioritize what I used to, which is socializing for “no good reason” other than it’s well, good for me.)

So, anyway, I was there, talking to drunk people–some more drunk than others–and one or two or three people really struck me as complainers. And I totally get it. I mean, on a deeper level, and maybe one that they don’t get…YET. Because they have not put in the “sober work.” I don’t mean to sound high-horse-y, but it strikes me as true that when you get sober, you stop finding excuses and you stop complaining. There are no problems, only solutions (Bob Marley, in all his “simplistic” lyricism, knew what was up.)

The fact is, complaining is pointless and takes energy. I mean, I used to complain a lot when I got drunk. I used to blow things out of proportion, care about shit that was no business of mine, and put effort into everything BUT what I should be putting effort into: me, and solving my so-called problems.

Last night, someone was drunkenly bitching about some random stranger having a 9-month-old out to dinner at 9 pm. I get it, it’s lame, but…what are you going to do? I was like, Why on EARTH would you care, let alone get riled up, about something you cannot change? Then I remembered, I used to do that all the time when I was drinking–and, when I wasn’t drinking, in the back of my mind.

It just becomes pointless–useless–to complain. IF there is an actual problem, why not solve it? IF you’re insulted by the situation, change it. Or, change your attitude toward it. The goal for me, I guess, has become to make things as simple as possible, at all times. To not care about things that I cannot change. To change what I can, and leave the rest. And, to see someone struggling with problems that are not his–and doing so in an emotional, confusing way, which is what happens when you get drunk–it struck me as tiring. Exhausting. A waste of time!

I cannot tell you how glad I am to be sober right now–not just not drinking, that is an afterthought. I cannot even really express how being sober has forced me to change this problem-seeking mindset/lifestyle I was living–into a solution-seeking one. There are so many big deals (the brother’s crazy girlfriend, ahem) and little things that went into it, but a little over two years later, I am glad to say, I don’t give a shit about what’s not mine (well, I try). And this is grand. Because this allows me to see clearly what I can and should and need to care about, and how I can actually change it. Or not. Either way, it doesn’t carry over into my Hemlock Grove-watching time, or my writing time, or my thinking time, or my pie-making time.

Obviously, there are people who have a complaining problem with our without booze, and there are MANY well-adjusted, empathetic folks out there who do not! I was just noticing the former group at last night’s shenanigans.

Well, hope all are well. Sobriety is HARD work, no external solutions allowed! But, it is so worth it when you can finally sit back and say, Wow, this happened. I think I’ll keep being sober.

Top five things about not drinking on a Friday night

26 Apr

8:30 am

I like to make these lists, from time to time, as you may have noticed. And, there are SO many good things about not drinking at Friday night “happy” hour, that’s it’s going to be tough to pick just five.

I’ll preface this by saying, I am sitting on the couch, feeling and hearing the ocean off my deck, at 8:15 am–sure, I’m a bit tired because I didn’t get enough sleep last night, but it is WAY better than being hung over. And, I must say, I would be hung over even after a couple glasses of wine, I know it.

I also must say, I felt ill enough from sitting all day at a training-type event that I simply could not imagine drinking at the happy hour-thingie that someone in the group was planning (jones’ing) for–even if I was still drinking. A LOT of the times when I was living and working in “the city,” I felt so office-sick after my days, I had to come home, hit the gym to sweat/detox; and ONLY THEN was I able/ready to go out and consume my shit-ton of wine. Maybe that was what helped me do it for so long, I had some preemptive metabolic support (shit, I KNEW what I was doing, but I’ll leave that for another post titled, How to prepare and maintain your body for a high-functioning alcoholic lifestyle).

Another thing: I felt SO calm, and SO not tired in the training session. I was a student my entire life, and a good one, but I was either always anxious or always tired. I thought that was “just me.” It wasn’t, it was what I did to me. In high school and college I didn’t drink, but I would only “allow” myself about six hours sleep a night; in college, it was worse, with me struggling to keep up with my pre-med studies, probably getting no more than four hours a night during most of my first two years! In grad school, I was basically either always hung over or exhausted, or both, from staying up all night drinking.

Yesterday was different, and it changed the story I’ve been telling myself all my life about myself as I relate to school: I am not inherently anxious about my abilities. Either by 40 years old, I’ve changed, or, I was simply always tired or anxious because (at least in grad school) I was always and constantly hung over.

It was a great feeling, to be the one in control, finally. If ONLY I had realized just how fucking hard I was making it on myself in grad school–how would my experience have been different had I not boozed it up every single night? If I had turned to yoga to ease my intense anxiety (the program was brutal), instead of making it WORSE by drinking?

Anyway, top five reasons to NOT drink on a Friday night:

1. No hangover on Saturday morning!

2. Feeling freedom, which is ultimately mega-empowering: I was not jones’ing for a drink at 5 o’clock. I was not “looking forward” to it during lunch, or toward the end of the training session. There was not the least bit of “running in circles” in my mind, trying to figure out where and/or IF I would drink that night, how much, with whom, or worrying about “missing out” on some shit if I didn’t go out. NONE. What a blank, wonderfully calm slate it is, a mind that is not thinking about drinking during the day.

3. Being able to work out and de-stress and detox after a long day–for real, and not for fake with a drink. All I wanted to do after this session was work out, sweat, move my body. And, I did. And, drinking–even ONE drink, even in “moderation”–would have prevented that.

4. Staying on track/maintaining momentum–this has to do with not necessarily feeling “guilty” because I drank (I wouldn’t anyway), but this feeling I have had for a while, and that just KEEPS BUILDING the longer I don’t drink on Friday (or any other) night. It’s like, an integrity, a wholeness, a circle, not a fragmented line. Doing my body good. Counting on myself. Never getting stupid, or oversharing, or being indiscrete, or being a dumb fuck. It feels GOOD to have that…long-term thing going. A sense of personal best, or satisfaction, or something. It’s taken so much mental work, but: a feeling of finally being convinced that even one drink is actually NOT better than continued sobriety. Maybe it’s called, preserving grace?

5. Plans are intact–I guess this relates to being not hung over (but that’s more of a physical thing), or to being able to count on myself (but that’s more of a feeling thing). The weekend is here, and my plans are intact, and I still “don’t need” wine. I have everything I need, and I feel free. I have some writing to do, and my part-time job to do, and packing to do (for our mini-vacay on Monday and Tuesday), and all that will get done.

Top five. The pangs still come and go, and I did still (after almost two years) feel a bit…weird, being the “sober” girl at the “happy” hour last night, but…NOT ENOUGH TO GIVE UP MY SOBRIETY, or my Friday night. Not even close.

Am I a lurker in my sober life?

27 Dec

11:34 pm

What a week, eh? Ah, holidays. Ugh. Even with my 280-some days, I had MAJOR pangs, which was quite unexpected! Again, not necessarily pangs to drink, but pangs to avoid what I really didn’t want to feel, or acknowledge, or confront.

So, quickly, let me set the stage. My boyfriend and I went away for a few nights, and all in all, we had a great time. We’d been to where we went before, and so there was a level of familiarity–and nostalgia–to the place. Which played against me this time, as you’ll see. On Christmas Eve, he sprung something on me that I wasn’t comfortable doing–honestly, I’m not sure I would’ve been comfortable doing it drunk, let alone sober. However, while other people do everything sober and don’t think twice; not me, so cue the whirlwind of “should I/shouldn’t I” thoughts!

I was also feeling surprisingly lonely. I mean, lonely for family in the sense of connection, of belonging, of “protocol.” You know, how it’s nice to sit around once in a while with your big, dysfunctional family because, well, it makes you feel like you’re part of something larger than yourself? That there’s SOME sort of order to the Universe? Now, I’ve been “un”-celebrating holidays for a long time, spending many of them alone, or doing random things around the world, literally–it’s not like I’m all that big into Christianity OR family. Why the HELL I found myself wearing shades en route to the airport, having a hard time holding the tears back, I really don’t understand. I think it was the combination of feeling a sense of loss–my old self, my old way of doing things, the old me who could party and be independent–and a sense of finality–how much I’ve gained, how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown.

It was in this state of mind that my boyfriend sprang “the thing” on me. I sort of moped my way through dinner, feeling inadequate in a way because I couldn’t (wouldn’t) do something just because it would have been easier to do with a “glass” of wine to take the edge off. And then, we went to a salsa club. Neither of us danced, and it was the worst feeling in the world–because I’ve been the one to Not Dance out of feeling awkward and like everyone is staring at me SO MANY TIMES. And, it brings up the worst sort of paranoia in me: that I’m unable to enjoy the way others do, that I’m unable–worse, unwilling–to have fun, to let go, to just be. That I can’t do so many things (that make me feel unsafe and self-conscious) without wine.

And, then, I said, Let’s wander around the bar. And my boyfriend was like, And, do what? If you want to be part of something, go and do it, but stop making not being able to drink an excuse for not having the guts to do it. (I’m paraphrasing.)

Hmm.

Am I, in fact, a lurker in my own life? Have I always been? Duh. YES. I mean, when I was drinking, I was alone and desperate for connection, but I was afraid to go out and get it. I’d watch other people, looking for clues as to how to have a life. How to LIVE a life. Ten years ago, I started to walk around the city I lived in at night, looking into lit-up living rooms, craning my neck to gaze deeper, feeling the chill in the air outside even more strongly because the inside looked so warm. I’d DRIVE the fuck around after midnight, passing clubs and bars that I used to frequent, hoping to find…something I had lost, I guess. I never went into those clubs or bars; I was alone, after all, and way too scared. But, I wanted to know that nothing was going on without me. That I hadn’t really lost anything. Or that, I wasn’t missing out on all that much.

Nothing has really changed, it seems, with me getting sober. For years, I drank and drank and drank, and that gave me the courage–or alternately, the excuse to pass on events–to go to things, bars, events, dates, to initiate conversations, to maintain relationships. I had to drink to do it, I was way too scared to do any of it sober. It wasn’t that I was always drunk, but, toward the end everything and everyone in my life involved wine.

It’s been a struggle, and I’ve been trying to be patient with myself. These days, it’s not that I can’t do it, it’s more that I don’t want to. I gave myself a pass for these past 18 months, but more and more, I’m finding myself craving connection. And I see that my “pass” has become an excuse to lurk, to hide out, to avoid contact, to basically give myself the excuse to not do things, socially and professionally.

And, I can’t come up with one thing other than that horrible four-letter word: fear.

I used to pride myself on being the one who was up for anything, on being fearless, on making shit happen. Maybe that was just another story I told myself, because I’ve always hated dancing in front of strangers, for instance, unless I’m drunk. I’ve had an infinite number of conversations with people in my lifetime, at bars, in cities, in colleges and travels, under blankets and in between sheets; but once I got sober, I didn’t want to anymore. I simply didn’t have it in me anymore. I chalked that up to needing to conserve my energy, to finally focusing on me, to being able to at last say, Fuck it, to the shit that I just didn’t want to do–since that “shit” was making me drink.

I keep telling myself that when the time is right, I’ll get back to doing what I used to do–all of which was WAY easier because I was fueled by “liquid courage.” Won’t I? Or, do I need to push myself?

Have I been hiding myself away from life? I think the answer is yes. It’s a very difficult truth to embrace, but…I think it’s time to cut the cord, dive in, jump off.

It sucked balls to have to confront, on Christmas Eve no less, some of the things that have been fucking STARING me in the face before, during, and now, after getting sober. That while I needed to stash myself away for a while and avoid the “real world” of socializing–meeting people, making friends, forming authentic relationships–I need something else now. Something like friends. Girlfriends. Warmth through conversation. A sense of belonging, even community, with others. What irks me the most is that I know this has always been a sore point with me, and I’ve always been afraid of it. It’s why I drank, to avoid having to do what makes me feel uncomfortable–fearful, basically. To put myself out there, for me, is to confront and embrace human interaction.

I’m glad I didn’t drink on Christmas Eve; even now, I see that it would’ve made things easier, and probably more fun. However, in exchange, I got to confront myself and get a little bit closer to my truth, to the real story, as it were.

On that note, I’ve got a cold, so it’s off to bed (at least it’s a “legitimate” excuse to stay home!).

I’m the one in control–weird

18 Dec

11:26 am

Last night, I went to our annual (well, two years and counting) Christmas party thrown by our “rich” friend–needless to say, there were lots of corks popping.

Firstly, I brought chilled sorrel tea, and it was my lifesaver! (I also had my boyfriend, who doesn’t drink; he smokes weed, but that’s not a big deal to me unless it becomes the focus of the event, which it wasn’t last night.) If anyone has ever tried sorrel tea, it looks just like wine or a mixed drink AND, it’s quite thirst-quenching–I didn’t miss a belly-full of wine, in other words. And, it gave me the opportunity to observe, pretending I was “one of them” without actually being one of them.

Everyone was drinking, of course. “Being festive,” but really, this is a drinking crowd, so the “festive” was more like “pretty damn drunk” for some. No one did or said anything wrong; in fact, everyone was a good drunk. However, I did get to watch it unfold as it usually does: first, you’re chatting, being polite and civil and a little tipsy; then comes what I like to call the shit-talk and secret drinking games. Like, well, talking shit and doing what appears to the sober folks in the room be strange things: having long, whispered conversations about nothing, or topics you’ll regret the next day; two people suddenly racing up the stairs, only to disappear for a half hour and then, tumble back into the room, flushed, giddy. Hilarious, right? So much fun, right?

Right. The biggest thing I noticed–and, it’s not the first time, which is why I’m blogging about it–is just how out of control drinking makes you. How vulnerable. I mean, obviously, I KNOW THIS, from my years of putting myself in ridiculous situations–jail and car crashes and blackout sex are an alcoholic’s version of vulnerable, but there is a gradient, and you become part of it even if you’re a “social drinker.”

Vulnerable in that, you have conversations where you talk too much or say things too loud, for the most part; I don’t have to mention sitting on laps and flirting with people in front of friends. Now, I come from years upon years of overexposing myself emotionally and physically while getting shitfaced; I’ve had enough, and so I LIKE being tight-lipped, controlled, only allowing you to see exactly what I want. Doesn’t mean I’m not aware of this or a dry drunk; it means I like being the one in control, the observer, able to go home knowing exactly what I said and did.

My main question right now is, why on earth would someone make themselves so vulnerable by drinking too much? All you do is make yourself vulnerable–to talking shit, to having conversations that you might regret the next day, wondering what you said because you don’t remember it and then feeling scared and frenetic because you’re not sure what you said and you’re not sure how drunk the other person was and if they’re going to think you’re a complete dumb-ass for rambling and over-sharing. Not to mention, all the other terribly-exposing shit that comes with drinking–flirting uncontrollably, showing too much interest or maybe interest that you’re not ready to share with your friends; telling people about your abusive childhood; revealing just how bitchy you are, or how insecure you are, or how generous and happy of a wobbly drunk you are.

Why would you do this to yourself? At the end of the day, no matter how alone I feel sometimes in sobriety, last night taught me that I SO prefer to feel a little bit on the “outside” than be exposing myself and making myself vulnerable in exchange for being part of the “secret club”–which is what happens between drinks, not because of them.

I’m feeling a bit grumpy lately, mainly because of this freelance life I live, but I’ll move past it and keep working. I have 275 days today–goal is 300, so I’m almost there! My “alcohol-free” beer experience the other day made me go, Hmmmmm: not only did I see that drinking might simply not do it for me anymore, but, it also sparked a curiosity about wine. Maybe just one glass?

I’ll put it on the back burner–no, back in the package in the freezer–for now, where it belongs. I’ve got work and holidays and shit to do, no time for thinking about stupid drinking!

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