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Keeping my head above water–barely

16 Dec

8:12 pm

But, at least there IS water in these parts!  Haha.  SO glad to be out of the desert.

Anyway…  Hi!  Hello!  I am feeling a bit sad–frustrated, mostly–that I haven’t blogged much recently.  It’s been sort of crazy the past few months, moving across the country AND starting a new job, and traveling for work this past week to meet my team, get trained, etc.  SO, I just wanted to stop by and say hi, and let you know that I’m still here–albeit, sometimes I wonder where my brain has gone lately.

Whew.  We moved.  Across the country.  And, I started a new job.  In the big, cold city that I left years ago (though, I normally work from home, which is not there!).  Literally on the same day!  When it rains, it pours, I suppose.  Exhale.  It couldn’t have gone smoother, really, this whole business; and we are finally relatively settled in our new place.  Our apartment complex has four lakes and a bunch of walking paths, all of which is surrounded by conserved marshland and trees overgrown by Spanish moss; compared to the city I was in this week, this place is so nourishing and peaceful that I cannot appreciate it more!  Damn, I am not who I once was–and it is glorious to finally be able to admit that, frankly.

I have been at the new job for almost three weeks, and so far, so good.  I unpacked my suitcases and a few boxes, and within a few days, flew out on a business trip to meet my team, get trained, blah blah blah.  While the new gig has been eye opening–I haven’t felt this welcomed to a new job in years, maybe decades; and, being in the same room with your coworkers truly does motivate you to new heights when it comes to a shared sense of purpose–I can’t believe how tiring I found it going into an office every day.  (I like having full control over my time, and my creativity; I like not being entrenched in a team–that is not how this is going to be.  As a freelancer, and contractor, I’m used to an empty room, and a blank page, as it were.  Still, it’s nice to feel the safety net at the moment.)

I mean, it was physically tiring, of course; I couldn’t get over what a (freezing cold) hassle it felt like to get myself from bed to office; and then, to sit in said office, being productive and keeping my game face on through what was (is) for me, and excruciatingly painful 8 hours.  I cannot IMAGINE that it doesn’t affect most people, sitting on one’s ass all day; but, I really couldn’t see any sign of discomfort on anybody’s face.  Just me, being spoiled or old or a wimp; but in the usual pain.  (I normally stand all day at my standing/raisable desk, and for good reason.)

It was also mentally challenging in that, I had to maintain my sober zen, if you will, in the face of intense “microaggressions.”  I love that word, and it SO defines life in big cities, especially this one.  From the cold wind to having no space, to bad food and unfriendly strangers; it’s all about trying to keep your inner wall up and intact.  Those stressors are what cause people in early sobriety to relapse; that shit is what gave me many more reasons to drink, at least in my mind, for most of the years I lived there.

Anyway,  I just can’t imagine going back to that life–especially after the one I’ve built, and have been living, since I left the “real world” in 2012!  Moreso, I can’t imagine wanting it–and that is new, and something that I’m starting to more fully embrace.  So, I am super-grateful that I can do this job remotely, and in any setting I like, save for one day a week at a regional office.

I’m back home now, and feeling warm, relieved, and like my zen is back.  I have to say, while I like it here so much more than the desert–precisely because it reminds me of our old island life is making me long for that life more and more.  I’ve written about this before, but I have spent most of the past two decades doing what (probably) many people of my generation have done:  striving to achieve.  You know what?  I’m tired of it.  I’m grateful, indeed, at having had so many opportunities to strive to achieve, but frankly, it was only after I left the mainland in exchange for a slower, less achievement and consumerism-focused lifestyle that I realized, this is me.  This is me.  Ironically, I spent my entire time on that island trying to convince myself that it wasn’t me; only now, years later, am I finally starting to accepting that maybe this really is me!

I am glad I’ve taken this new job, which is exposing me to all that I left–albeit, at a much kinder pace (nonprofit and journalism are distantly related, but I would say that they’re much different beasts).  However, I can see more change coming in the near future…

Wine?  Yes, admittedly, there were a few times these past few weeks when I fantasized about drinking at some point in the near future (what that means to my fantasizing brain, I don’t know, honestly); BUT, at no point did I have the urge to drink.  Never the urge, only the fantasy–which is always crushed when I remember the reality of my red wine drinking days.  I know better; thank God, I know, and I know better.  In this one thing, I know better, and so I do better.  Exhale.

Back from another long journey

11 Aug

11:30 am

This summer (well, the past few years, actually) has been all about searching.  Searching for that next place to call home, that next job, that next big adventure, that next challenge.  Frankly, I do think it’s a part of getting sober, it’s a part of my “plateau’ing”, and it’s a part of my struggle right now with feeling stuck, staid, depressed, angry, whatever.

I am so tired.  I am a writer, and realized long ago that I simply need (more) time and space to just methodically ponder shit.  It’s just who I am, and how I function in the world.  Yet, when you travel, I think you have to become a bit more spontaneous, let go of your routines, and embrace the lack of control that comes from this act.  Which can be hard on people who are normally introverted (inside themselves rather than outside, in the big, bad world).

I spent oh, 2 or 3 weeks on my international volun-touring trip in June (What did I learn?  That I am not young and that I could do what I did locally–something I have already learned, years ago when I took my first volun-touring trip); and then, my fiance and I just spent about 2 weeks literally driving from one end of the country to the other, I guess looking for our next home.  For me, home is not necessarily anymore about place, so that makes it really, well, to use my fave expression right now, EFFING tiring.  I am effing tired of looking.  I know what I like, and where I feel good; those places, however, don’t work for me anymore because they’re too expensive, they don’t offer the quality of life that we’re used to here in the tropics (let me tell ya, everywhere on this planet feels dry as shit to me now if the humidity is under 70%), and they don’t afford a girl proximity to the natural world (which I’ve realized I NEED more than I want, as a soul seeker and a writer).  Exhale, I keep telling myself.  It will come.

We’re back now, and I’m back to writing and working.  We’ll see where the road takes us, but at this very moment, I am happy for the stillness.

Anyway, just a short post to say that I’m back online, and really appreciated all your comments re: whether or not to come out.  I think I will, eventually and soon, but not today.

And, do I feel like drinking?  Never.  Did the thought of “becoming a wine drinker again” come up on this trip or in the past few months?  Yes.  I don’t know what I would get out of it, and cannot even imagine having energy to get out of bed these days AND be a drinker again (let alone give up my hard-won sobriety and all that has come with it)–yet, I have thought about it when I’ve also thought about how bored, or staid, or frustrated I feel in my daily life sometimes.  Like, I want to feel excited again about my daily work/life–and, what do you know, even after all this time, my brain still considers or equates wine with excitement.  It’s a trick, I know, and it’s Wolfie, I know.  But, it’s scary; about 10% scary.

How do I stop that type of thinking?  Well, I’m really used to forcefully pulling my brain back onto the neutral track, if not the positive one, after 5 years of sobriety.  But, I know I also have to work on finding joy again in the day-to-day, and exercising my right to just enjoy life.  It doesn’t have to be hard or stressful; people are not out to get me, to put obstacles in my path.  That is my default neural mode, and until I fully unpack these neuroses, my trick is to just accept and deflect–all the while remaining conscious of the fact that this is how the stress of life transitions makes itself known.  This is that stress, and this is what it does to my brain.  (Maybe it makes others eat more, or run more, or drink more; all those things, too, were and are my self expression of stress.)

I have to say, it REALLY helps to have a home in the tropics, where I get to work alone all day, though–haha.  So, yeah, big changes ahead if we do finally leave this place as a couple (I left 2 years ago on my own for about 9 months).

Sorry for the brain dump, and glad to have you all in my court!  HUGS.

Happy 2015!

10 Jan

11:29 am

I just wanted to check in quickly and say, happy new year to all!

Lately, I haven’t been blogging much, mainly because I’m really busy with my freelance writing business. I have to say, 2014 was a fantastic year, and I’m almost a little apprehensive: will 2015 live up to it? My “word” of the year is BUILD. Just continuing to build, and work, and reap the rewards of continued sobriety. There have been so many, and from the talks I’ve had with self and others, this year is looking to be pretty fruitful as well.

Last year I took something like five or six trips–it was a very active, confrontational year. Meaning, I went toward, and worked on, my demons, or, the things that I had to go back to. This year, that doesn’t have to be the case; I’ve circled the wagon and seen inside–not much going on that’s relevant to my present, daily life anymore.

This year, my boyfriend and I are already planning a handful of awesome trips, one of which will be another road trip through the southern part of the US–to see where we want to move to. The freelance writing, after much, much work, has finally started to pay off: not only am I writing almost constantly (because I work almost constantly), but I’m landing better-paying gigs. Hope that keeps up this year. It will keep up if I keep putting the work in, is one thing I’ve always known. You work, and it pays off. Eventually, somehow, somewhere.

Full steam ahead, continuation of the hard work that I put in last year–that’s all I can come up with for 2015. Sobriety is my cornerstone, but…not drinking doesn’t mean all that much, in the end, without accompanying work toward making my life what I want it to be. Meaning, I have a bottle of white in the fridge–haven’t even looked at it beyond using it to make risotto a couple times. BUT, have I felt tired and frustrated and unsure–and happy and joyful, and frankly, free? All the time, yes, yes, yes. Both, and neither, and in between. That’s life. It has nothing to do anymore, for me, with wine, white or red. Life is life; liquid that you put into your body is just that. I pick life to think about and do these days, not “sobriety.” Sobriety, thankfully, is done. It’s there. It’s my building block. But, that doesn’t mean I believe I have to be afraid of returning to the person who was guzzling bottles on a daily basis.

Which is a little bit why I haven’t blogged. But, mainly, it’s because I’ve been busy working and dreaming and planning for what’s to come, not what WAS. And, what isn’t. I guess I can open up some time, one day soon, to ruminate on what isn’t. Not today, though: I have writing to do (ugh), a beach to visit, some kind of kickass meal to make (I really like cooking now), dogs to walk, and “The Killing” to watch. 🙂

Here’s to a productive–and TRULY “happy, joyful, and free” new year. Happy, and joyful, and free is HOW YOU DEFINE IT. And, if you’re at that point, of being able to use those words, and set even just a little meaning to them; you’re well on your way to full, lasting recovery.

I’m back…I think

20 Jul

12:05 pm

Hi!

Just a very quick post to say, I finally came home from my month-long “volun-tour” adventure. I didn’t have much time to do any blogging, let alone drinking. And, there was, of course, a lot of drinking–but not on my part!

For many reasons, it was easy to not imbibe when it was a full-time party for some. One, I have lost my taste for it. I did “taste test” someone’s drink (always rum) three times, and all three times, I felt ill just smelling the fumes. Like, ZERO desire to go down that road. I also was never a hard booze type; I’ve mentioned before how I was strictly a wine girl (loved wine, in fact), but even when someone sat down next to me one night, slugging down her cup of wine, I could literally smell the fumes like a hound dog–and they made me cringe, from the pit of my stomach to the top of my head. It was white wine, to boot. I would drink white, but never in preference to red. I can feel my stomach getting sour just remembering an entire weekend I spent downing boxed white, never leaving my apartment except for once, on Sunday, at 3 pm, to get more wine. UGH.

Two, I surrounded myself with a group of non-drinkers, or light drinkers, and I felt like my old, dorky self. They know intuitively that drinking to get tanked is just not something one does, if one wants to get any shit done.

I’ve come so far, I realized. So very far.

Yes, I drank that beer–to end the obsession, as it were, which was becoming REALLY unhealthy (kind of also the reason I have been slow to check back in here–uber-focus on Sobriety with a capital “s” can be almost counterproductive to staying sober). YES, I taste-tested someone’s drink three times–once was because I was really quite curious how a pina colada made by a blender rigged to the back of a bicycle (it was a developing country, and there were a lot of “sustainable” types experimenting with alternative materials!) would taste; the other times were because I was taken off guard when someone shoved a drink up my nose, and because I had never tasted this somewhat-local drink everyone was talking about.

Even still, I wonder why I taste-tested. But, I let it go. I had zero desire to continue drinking because I really just have no taste for booze, especially hard stuff. But mainly, I had zero desire to be drunk–which comes with a huge price to pay, physically (hangover) and psychologically (depression, falling off my cloud, denting my force field of sober awesome). Probably mostly, I had NO TIME to be hungover. I literally had NO TIME to waste there, I was that busy with my volunteer writing and then, my trips, my own work here (gotta pay the bills!), and my general sense of, Wow, this place is different, but equally interesting, without the nonsense of drinking.

I am curious about wine, but, not enough to go trying it right now. I have an almost-irritating amount to do, and I also feel like drinking is Just Not The Answer to anything. Especially to continuing to move forward.

For me, IF I continue to make goals and set deadlines for my personal and professional lives, there is NEVER time for alcohol anymore. And, I’ve finally realized what a good thing this is. Am I doing it consciously? Almost. However, a large part of it is my heart, which keeps reining me in when I think about “trying wine again.” I don’t want this amazing sober ride to end, is all!

I can pretty much say that I would NEVER have gone back to where I went if I had not gotten sober. I found–I created, actually–my volunteer position of my own effort. I would never have had the follow-through, the long-term grit, to make it happen if I had not gotten sober. I am able to make much more long-term plans, but I’m also able to stare them down and see them through. (I had to get my picture taken at customs on the way back into the country, and really, my entire face has changed: my stare is so much more direct, cut-the-crap, kind, open, and calm–bring it on, Life. I know that the “sneaky, giggly” expression of my drunken yester-years is officially gone from my face now–once in a while, nostalgia has me wondering if this “new sober me” is TOO sober/serious, but the majority of the time, I marvel at how much more direct and at peace I look.)

I also know that if I “try wine again,” this energy, or commitment, to follow through on things might go away. And I literally can’t afford that to happen.

And, well, I just don’t want this amazing sober ride to end!

Drinking is boring. What is not boring is everything that YOU GET TO MAKE HAPPEN now that you’re sober.

So, that’s a quick update. I’m still sort of between there and here, and not quite sure why, but feeling anxious. I have a ton of work to do here–and some work to do there, that I didn’t finish before I left. And, this horrible flight crash–and all the other horrendous news that I managed to duck out on while abroad, in my bubble of developing-country-world–well, it’s got me feeling a tad bit overwhelmed. Time to process, and appreciate, and then, plan for the next adventure.

Thanks everyone for checking in, and onward we go!

(And, btw, day count busted at over two years counting? The pedantic in me was like, Oh, shit, now I have to start over, after 460 days, AGAIN. And, you know what? The pedantic in me is what made me drink. I think I’m far enough into sobriety where days, while important, aren’t that important. What is important is maintaining my resolve to not drink because…it’s the right choice. Habit and a long stint of continuous sobriety has pounded it into my brain–do not drink, EVER–but now, the training wheels are coming off. Yes, I drank, but…I’m not not drinking to reach a day count or some other cake-and-candles goal; I’m not drinking because I want–and need–to remain sober.)

I had a beer, it didn’t work, life goes on

27 Jun

9:30 am

I just wanted to check in to say that I am well.

I had a beer. It didn’t work. Life goes on.

Yeah. And, I really want to explore this idea of getting sober–or, a long period of sobriety–as actually changing your brain. I mean, I had a beer because…I guess my obsessing over “what will it be like?” was just getting out of control. I just wanted to see what it was like. AND, I really couldn’t do this thing, and be in this place, without having the local beer (it’s like, a thing here, a very memorable part of the experience of this place, is having the local beer).

You know what? Just like with the “non-alcoholic” beer I accidentally drank (it was a while ago, maybe last December?), it just did not feel good. I felt cloudy-headed, more or less. It was hard to make conversation. I felt somewhat dizzy, and like I just wanted to go to sleep. No high, no buzz. In essence, it just didn’t work.

So, while this is a good thing, right…I also felt a little disappointed. WHAT? It’s really, really not an option anymore? I had the same effect with caffeine after I had a series of panic attacks back in 2005. I used to be a coffee FIEND, but, after a couple panic attacks brought on by coffee (after a night of binge drinking), I simply could NOT drink it anymore. I went from feeling awesome on coffee to feeling…static-brained. I just don’t drink it anymore because it doesn’t work–it makes me feel bad instead of good.

On the other hand, my little experiment was a GREAT thing. In the past several days or so, I’ve basically let go of the idea of what this place WAS to me–of “enjoying” it more while drunk on the local beer. I don’t need it. It’s a new day. It’s time to move on. And, because alcohol doesn’t seem to even work anymore–it makes me feel bad instead of good–I truly have to move on.

And, it makes me wonder: why are we drilling into people this “fear” of drinking again? I mean, I’m not saying don’t gather a ton of sober days under your belt first (like, years). What I’m saying is, we don’t have to live in fear of relapse. Maybe, just maybe, it won’t “work” for us the way it used to? Maybe we truly do have to move on, and embrace another way of coping and living? I haven’t had a cup of regular coffee since 2005. Sure, it sucked, and sure, I miss it every time I smell a pot brewing, but…I simply cannot drink it! It doesn’t work. Life goes on.

It feels good to know. I can somewhat let go of the obsession, this idea that drinking–no matter how far away I get from my last drink–is the fix I want and need.

(All is well here. Communal living is teaching me to open up again, and I’m being reminded of all that I do have–and, how far I’ve come in how comfortable I am with myself. It’s been a great week, and I’ve got three left. I’ll write more soon!)

Who am I now?, or, the art of no longer living in denial

18 Jun

12:10 pm

(I wasn’t going to post this, but I’m deciding to do so because, well, remaining sober means necessarily embracing it. And, Wolfie-boy and his ugly mange-y paw, Denial, can ruin the best of intentions. So, in an effort to embrace sobriety–and hang onto it in spite of Wolfie breathing down my neck (Oh, come ON, you’ve gone far enough, you can drink on this trip)–I’m reminding me (and you) of how I got here.)

I have to admit, I thought I was “different.” All these drunks at meetings, saying stuff like, “I had no idea who I was when I first got sober.” Pfft, please. That’s not me. *I* knew who I was, didn’t I? Don’t I? I know who I am, right? In FACT, I was the same person back then…except I drank. I still am that person, I just don’t drink.

Right? Riiiiight.

Anyway, I have accomplished some shit in my life, but one day last year, with my issues coming into crystal clear focus, I realized that it might have all been pretty much fueled by wine. And that hit me in the gut like a punching bag. Oof. Really? Have all my successes and achievements–and failures, even missteps–been a direct result of my drinking? Not in the, I needed wine to do this, kind of way, but in the, Wine was always in the picture, kind of way. And it did, indeed, allow me to do certain things. My sense of motivation–maybe a frenetic one, looking back–CAME FROM THE WINE. Sure, my brain is wired to accomplish, to want to achieve; but, in the later years, especially from about 2004 until now, was it the “wine brain” that was propelling me to do all the crazy, caution-to-the-wind shit that I did? Or, was that me?

Wait, who am I?

As I prepare for this volunteer trip (for which I, gulp, leave on Thursday), I have to admit: I have NO IDEA how to do this sober. I’ve never done it sober. I’ve gone to the country where I’m going three times already, but I’ve never seen the place through the lens of a sober person. That is to say, the past three times I’ve gone to where I’m going, I drank–like, drinky-drank-DRUNK drank!

The third time (four years ago), though, not so much. And, here’s what’s “hilarious” about that: for the past few years, I’ve been telling myself that I didn’t drink *as much* on the third trip because I “wasn’t really an alcoholic” and that I just needed to find something purposeful to fill my hole.

What really happened, I’m remembering more clearly now, is that I was AFRAID OF KILLING MYSELF based on how ridiculously I drank the first two times.

Just to semi-recap: on the first trip (over five years ago), I drank every night, till the end (3 am), and then had to get up every morning at 7 am for work (manual labor–somehow the hangovers weren’t so bad when you were sweating them out). I drank WHILE ON malaria meds, and then WHILE HAVING A BAD REACTION to said meds, such that I was in a state of acute panic/anxiety for a period of 36 hours at one point. It was a nightmare; literally, a waking nightmare. I completely blamed this reaction on the chloroquine as being an older anti-malarial that I shouldn’t have taken based on my medical history of depression and anxiety. Now, however, I have to ask myself, Could it have been the probably-dangerous combination of a shit-ton of booze plus the meds? (tilts heads in mock wonder)

On the second trip, a year later, it only got worse! I got SO drunk one night at a party (thrown by and for my host mother’s family), that I kissed an old guy, got SUPER-emotional and crazy and was yelling at people, then, managed to pass out on the outhouse seat. I fell forward onto something hard and flat with the full weight of my noggin, bashing my forehead so hard that I not only had a huge welt up there, but gave myself a black eye (days later, after the blood drained down). The host mother was chagrined, to say the least, and there was at least one person who bid me an official farewell the next morning (even though I was there for another several days).

I mean, these are just a FEW stories of how I drank there. No, I wasn’t the only alcoholic, and no, others experienced a lot worse consequences (one guy fell off a roof and died), BUT…

It never seemed to click, how exhausting and dangerous all this was–year after year after year. Once the hangover wore off and the bad behavior, forgotten, I simply moved on and pretended that nothing needed to change. Or, at least nothing needed to change *that* much.

This is stuff that makes my (bobble)head spin, like someone threw a brick at my face–how could I have lived in such denial? Not only of what I was doing–and how I was using alcohol–but of how I was lying to myself about what I was doing?! Something must have stuck (was it the outhouse incident?) because, fully realizing that it would be dangerous to binge drink like that again, I managed to control my drinking on the third trip (the dehydration factor also helped).

Fast forward to now, and I seem to have forgotten about all of this! Like, I’ve been telling myself that I didn’t drink heavily the last time because I didn’t need to, didn’t feel like it, realized that this work filled my unmet needs–no, I wasn’t really an alcoholic at home, I was just empty with want and my unmet needs.

Yes, unfortunately, I was an alcoholic at home. I drank and bad shit happened, but I kept drinking. It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

All this being said, this time around, I am not going to drink because, well, I’m sober. Right? I’ve thought about it, of course: would it really be that bad to do the two-beers-a-night thing again? I’m sure I could do it, and might even want to. BUT…a part of me really wants to see this world, have this experience, live out this dream…through the prism of a sober mind. And this, somehow, seems much more important and real than all my doubts and fears (of which I have many, namely: Will this place have lost its romantic appeal now that I’m sober? Will this idealized reality–which I could maintain as a drinker–simply become mundane? Will my supposed “dream job,” which I’ll be doing there (as a volunteer), turn out to be something I really don’t like, find to be an actual pain-in-the-ass without the nightly reward and reinforcement of wine/beer?).

You know, I am no different from all those “people in AA meetings who don’t know themselves.” And, that actually makes me feel hopeful. I am living this thing now, for real, and that must mean…progress? I sure hope so!

Well, I might sneak in one more post before I take off, but if not, travel well, my sober friends, and I’ll see you in a little bit (will post from there, but it might be random and/or sporadic).

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