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Not PAWS, but maybe PTSD?

16 Jan

3:16 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I might have PAWS

15 Jan

1:53 pm

And, we’re not talkin’ about the cute kind! (I have baby giraffe hooves, remember?)

PAWS = post-acute-withdrawal syndrome. The symptoms can range from everything from depression to anxiety to fatigue to “physical coordination problems” (uh, had that covered BEFORE I quit), for months or years after you stop drinking.

Say what?! YEARS?!?! Come ON. No, no, no, no, no, no, no!

First, I have to go through withdrawal, then I have to make it 90 days, and now, I have to keep going through withdrawal, indefinitely? NOT FAIR. (Well…you did get yourself into this mess, Drunk Drunk Girl; now you have to get yourself out.)

I’m finally, after 90 days, starting to feel less moody, and less pouty, when it comes to drinking. To feel less depressed when I tell myself that once again, No, you cannot drink tonight, or Yes, you have to at least try to convince yourself that this (everything) might be even a little bit fun without wine. Le sigh. I’m beginning to know–in my heart AND mind–that drinking equates to not getting things done, which is what I really want right now. Those to-do lists are simply popping, and I finally want to dive in, like I used to.

However, my body is not really wanting to dive in, let’s just say. I feel TIRED a lot. Like, I only have a finite amount of both mental and physical energy, and then I have to stop and go to bed. My days could very well consist of eating, walking the dogs, and resting/sleeping/zoning. My “go go go” tenacity seems gone, zapped. Like, I cannot IMAGINE, really, holding down a full-time job right now, let alone living again the lifestyle I was in my drinking days: up at 6 am, in bed by 2 am, with an 18-hour day, a full meal, and two bottles of red wine to digest in those 4 hours before I had to get up and do it all over again. I’m OVER the rat race, for sure, but it has a lot to do with realizing that I don’t want to, let alone can’t, spend the next 20 years vying for prizes that mean next to nothing to me, alongside people who are as unhealthy in their outlook on life as I had become.

I DO wonder, though, if my soreness (here, there, everywhere) is not related to too much artificial sweetener (i.e., Diet Coke). I read that somewhere, and it stuck. Lately, my knees, both of ’em, really hurt when I run. I went for a 4- or 5-mile hike yesterday–and am BURNT today. Jesus! I used to (like, less than a year ago) be able to do 10-, 12-mile hikes–and drink to blackout afterward–and feel fine when it came to my muscles and joints. Hmm… I wonder if there wasn’t good stuff in wine that was actually buffering me against the inevitable decline toward old age. 😉

In any case, it’s much better than it was even a month ago, but the physical fatigue is concerning. As is my continuing desire to emulate my dogs (wake, walk, eat, sleep, repeat).

Does anyone have anything to add or contribute? It seems that the defining characteristics of PAWS and its “progression” or “remission” are about as nebulous as the definition of alcoholism, so I’m all ears (or paws–har har)!

96 days and not lookin’ back…right now, anyway. 😉

PAWS, WAA, disorder, and, well, sleep

15 Jan

12:59 am

The last is what I’m going to be doing ASAP, so, y’all’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear about:
1. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS)
2. Weird and Awkward (WAA) moments (i.e., real life), and my how-to tips on how to get through them sans alcohol
3. MOST IMPORTANTLY, my germinating hypothesis (I’m sure it’s been proposed, and I’ll be the first to admit that I have not read any addiction literature but plan to get on PubMed soon and start Finding Out): Addiction is not a disease, it’s a disorder–of thought, yes, but of memory and similarly, neuronal circuitry. Yes, there is a huge difference (in my mind at least) between a disease and a disorder. Drinking causes disease, but addiction is a disorder, a dysfunctional set of behaviors.

However, I hiked my arse off today on a somewhat impromptu trip to [beautiful island], so I’m beat. I guess it’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

And while I’m here, if I’m honest, I DO want to drink. I said I didn’t, but…I want the release, I want the buzz. Yet, when I re-think it, as I must do over and over, again and again, day in and day out–I really don’t want it THAT MUCH, or, at all. What would it do for me, at one in the morning? Nada. To boot, I’d have a hangover tomorrow, calories to burn, and well, I’d have LOST. Lost the game, the fight, my righteous edge, my newly reclaimed power (will blog about that soon, too), whatever. I’d have lost.

So much to share, friends, but I’ll see you tomorrow–calm, sober, and well-rested. (At 90-some days, I can’t really imagine putting up with being sick and fuzzy-headed en route to the sack. Eww. I’m glad I stuck it out, simply, and that I worked through the shit to get here. This is nicer, way nicer. The wolf voice screaming in my head at night to “drink drink drink” is finally gone; and perchance do I see my sparkle-toothed unicorn, smiling my way? YES! She’s hanging out with a baby giraffe, fluffing glitter out of her mane every time she turns her head to smile at me. (A sparkle-toothed unicorn pulls my water wagon, as she has been doing since my “first” first day of sobriety back in June. Well, why not?) 😉 )

Another lethargic day…

23 Aug

5:15 pm

Maybe I need to change my diet? Take a nap? The thought of doing any work makes me feel anxious and makes my head feel like it’s inflating more and and more with air. I wonder if I have a migraine? Doubt it; it’s not as much pain as I feel nauseated and dizzy, like I’m sea sick. And, I can’t seem to concentrate on typing this, let alone slog through my anxiety over flying “home” to [cold west coast city] (where I haven’t been living since June) and working, for real, on science writing stuff. Takes a brain. Don’t have a brain.

When I get back, I think I’m going to go on a strict diet of low-sugar, no meat. I’ve been drinking WAY too much Diet Coke since I quit drinkin’, and honestly, I think it’s worse — much worse — for me than the loads of wine I was taking in. Granted, the wine gives me liver problems, steals brain cells, and makes my belly fat, but…what the fuck does Diet Coke do? I know for SURE that it’s making me addicted to it, and to sugar, in a way that feels (well, yesterday it felt) almost “diabetic.” The urge to eat a sugary muffin yesterday before I felt like I was about to pass out was startingly strong. I can’t help but crave sweets now that I’m not drinking, and it’s been taking all my willpower to eat well and not replace the binge drinking with the occasional binge eating. All in all, I’ve had a very healthful summer, but lately, I’ve fallen off the wagon when it comes to moderating my diet soda intake as well as working out. Can’t WAIT to get that goin’ on again when I get back. Yoga, jogging, hiking, and possibly some swimming…same as here, but on the regular. And more of it.

Jesus, my head hurts. Feels swollen inside, is making me want to close or squint my eyes in order to see straight. Hmm…

Working and alcohol withdrawal = TMI!

22 Aug

4:03 pm

So, I was looking up long-term (or, as the doctors call it, “post-acute”) withdrawal symptoms for long-term alcohol abuse, and how long they last. Ugh. Nothing specific, but it seems more than likely that it could last for months, or longer! I think I definitely have some of these symptoms, like mood swings, general sluggishness, inability to focus, a lack of efficiency in my entire thought process, and now, a headache-ness (neck, back, and head pain that feels like vertigo and/or sea sickness) that is hard to work around. The headache is bizarre simply cuz I never get headaches. I doubt it’s got anything to do with withdrawal, but…I did feel ill and a general “detox”-type feeling for the first month or so after I quit drinkin’, so who knows?

I know I should be patient; I will have to be in order to “re-enter” my world of science writing and journalism. I haven’t worked in journalism since 2010 and haven’t worked a real job since early this year. Journalism takes a LOT of editing skills when it comes to information absorption, and the entire process of “keeping up” on news and journals can be more labor intensive, mentally speaking, than learning the actual presented information. Ack, fucking information! TOO MUCH OF IT. Plus, maybe I’m legitimately overwhelmed with the amount of changes that I’ve subjected myself to over the past year, as well as the number of decisions I have to make soon (I’m moving, starting my own freelancing business, looking forward to possibly traveling and/or long-term volunteering in the next few months, getting sober)…

Anyway, the point is, do headaches come with the territory? And, how long will the withdrawal symptoms, mainly the mood swings, the lack of “wham-bam” energy, and the indecision/feeling overwhelmed and overloaded by the smallest of things, last?

Plus, wasn’t I over the worst of it, having gone 60 days like, a week or so ago? (I’m on day 71 minus 2…)

(I *am* additionally distracted, though, by the fact that we’re looking down on Isaac, which as of an hour ago, was going to be passing by our island as a tropical storm! I’ve never lived through a storm or a hurricane, so that could get interesting.)

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