Tag Archives: blackout

Insomnia is a mental illness

8 Jun

11:40 am

And, actually, it IS! According to Medscape:

The DSM-5 defines insomnia as dissatisfaction with sleep quantity or quality, associated with one (or more) of the following symptoms: Difficulty initiating sleep. Difficulty maintaining sleep, characterized by frequent awakenings or problems returning to sleep after awakenings. Early-morning awakening with inability to return to sleep.

What I mean, however, is that insomnia causes mental illness (and that is part of its definition, too, in the DSM). For me, personally, that means anxiety, depression, and relatively speaking, “suicidal” thinking (i.e., what’s the point, everything sucks). I had one of my nights the night before last, and it took almost the entire day for me to rebound, to feel like myself again–to come out of the depths and to be able to think positively.

Honestly, it feels WAY too much like a night of blackout drinking and the next-day hangover from blackout drinking: you’re in and out of sleep, you’re having nightmares, you’re angry–oh, boy, does insomnia make me irrationally angry–and you’re delusional. It truly is horrifying, doubly so because it is like a replay of one of the MILLIONS of blackout-drunk/next-day hangovers I’ve had over the course of my drinking career (which gratefully ended when I started this blog eight years ago). It really does feel like I’m hungover the next day, too: intense anxiety, forcing myself to get out of bed, depression, this sense of darkness around my world and goals, the inability to think clearly, the list goes on and on.

Usually, I experience nights of insomnia caused by perimenopause–sometimes, I can’t fall asleep because I am burning up or otherwise wired wide awake; usually, I wake up after three or four hours sleep and can’t fall back to sleep. This time, however, it was because my stomach was cramping all night long (I have been toying with going on the keto diet; however, I am definitely crossing eggroll-in-a-bowl off my list of things that I can eat–LOL). I had some crazy nightmares, too: one was, the brother who wrote me off (after a bad blackout verbal assault!) was attacked by Trump supporters; the other was, our house, with floor-to ceiling windows looking out onto the ocean, was being flooded by HUGE waves that we could see come crashing down on our roof…and inside was a friend who ghosted me in 2017 (she just stopped emailing and texting, after 11 years of friendship, and I have never learned why). God, it was a dark night!

The next day, yesterday, I gave myself what turned out to be a gift: I went to our local Humane Society and spent the morning walking dogs! It felt really good to get out of my head, outside myself, and just help others, even if those others were fur-balls! Later in the evening, I went alone to our closest beach and took a sunset soak. It gave me the chance to remember how many times volunteering my time, helping others, actually saved me from myself. Getting outside myself has been what has saved me more than once from depression, anxiety, and everything that comes with too much self-focus.

It’s Monday, and while the protests are still going on and the COVID is still going on, I have to get on with my life. Which means, rebooting my (professional) writing portfolio and starting to send out ye olde resume. I don’t necessarily believe I won’t get my job back, but…it’s good to consider the possibility that I won’t.

I am eight weeks Facebook-free today, and I feel pretty much great about that. I do miss my actual friends’ posts, and I know that I am missing out on some events and “in the know” activities; however, for the most part, I believe I am not missing anything and I feel better about myself, calmer about the pace and progress of my days. I keep thinking of a few friends especially, wondering how they’re doing; otherwise, most people are simply not on my radar in that way (and, I would venture that most of anyone’s friends on Facebook are not really their friends, per se, people whose lives they’re actually interested in keeping up with). Anyway, I will keep going with it; I might not deactivate as I said I would, but I’ll probably stay off for a while longer, at least. The benefits are just too good!

Our dog is hanging in there; it was a bit sad to walk such fiesty pups at the Humane yesterday and come home to our “old” girl, barely able to hobble around for a few minutes outside. On the bright side, she IS still able to get herself up and down, and she IS still able to walk outside to pee–all good, right? I have come to accept her aging, the process of her aging, a wee bit more with every passing day. It’s part of life; I just wish it wasn’t part of HER life–haha.

Blessings, all, for a good week. Stay strong (or not); either way, you got this.

I got drunk last night…on .5% “non-alcoholic” beer!

10 Dec

11:32 am

And I learned SO much! Mainly that, everything I’ve been telling myself about relapse is off-base…when I consider MY physiology. No, drinking again will not necessarily trigger a physical craving, or even a mental one, like before. No, drinking again is not necessarily something I want to do, or will do, anymore to ease my pain or numb my fear. HOLY FUCK. All these stories I’ve assumed and acquired about “this disease” are not necessarily true–for me.

I’m going to be brief, but basically, I accidentally drank what I thought was a non-alcoholic beer last night, and it turned out that it actually had .5% alcohol. And, boy, did I feel it!

After the first half, I felt bad–decidedly unpleasant. Slightly anxious–what’s this unfamiliar feeling going to do to me?–and like my brain was coming unglued–imagine clasping your hands together and pulling them apart. By the end of the beer, I felt fuzzy-headed and a little careless (numb), but that was about it. No real buzz.

The best part? I had ZERO desire for more. I mean, I neither wanted a stronger buzz nor wanted it to go on. I was waiting to come down, if you can believe it! I could liken it to having just taken a shower; I felt clean and cool, why would I take another one? Or, just having eaten a nice dessert; I felt sated, why would I eat more? I had no compulsion–no obsessing, no real feeling at all besides, oh, this is an interesting feeling and it will be over soon, and I’m OK with that. Next?

I have no regrets. No, I didn’t “fall off the wagon;” no, I didn’t “slip.” I MADE PROGRESS. I mean, I feel like this was my own version of harm reduction–and while I’ve wondered about harm reduction techniques as being possibly painful, the overriding feeling I had after this experience was that of freedom. I felt free. I got my fix, I satisfied my curiosity, which, I’ll admit, had been eating away at me for the past 265 days.

Yeah, I felt free. But then, I was like, Oh, FUCK, now what? If I don’t have alcohol, what will be my fix NOW? All this time, I’ve been sort of harboring romantic visions of me drinking wine in moderation “when I’m fully healed.” I never in a million years imagined that I wouldn’t want to!

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.

The hauntings of Santa Muerte

26 Oct

3:09 pm

Hmm. Nothing all that profound about today. Just another day in “paradise.” Correction: just another SOBER day in paradise, which begins with me waking up not hung over! I swear, it never fucking gets old. EVER. I am grateful every morning for not having a hangover. EVERY morning. And, the longer I’m sober, the more accessible the memory of my last drunk (or one of my later hangovers) becomes; I seem to be able to remember it more clearly, breathe in every moment of that wretched feeling as if it were yesterday.

Today, though, I want to talk about hauntings. Of things past, things done. I have many, and of all the days of my life, all the events–these drunken shenanigans only make up a very small percent.  A miniscule amount. Yet. YET. Man, do they take up SO MUCH space in my brain.

And, I can’t seem to let them go. Forget about them. Relegate them to the back burner, so that all the awesome memories of amazing things I’ve done in my life can take the front, can actually be remembered and serve as springboards in the present moment. That’s the sad irony of all this navel-gazing, I suppose, or maybe it’s simply the nature of the beast: we ruminate on all the stupid, shitty, god-awful things we did drunk, and they make up our mental landscape, affecting who we are NOW and how we behave HERE. I am, for some reason, focused on the miniscule 1 percent, which obscures just how bright and amazing the other 99 percent is. Hmm.

I have a red boa draped over my desk, as decoration and distraction. Or…is it to remind myself of what I did, to keep it within reach so that I NEVER FORGET JUST HOW BAD I WAS? It was two years ago, the last Halloween I “celebrated,” and let me tell you what happened. I was to fly to LA to meet a long-time friend for the weekend. It was supposed to be relaxed, fun, an escape. Too bad I started off the trip with a HUGE night drinking alone in my apartment–per fucking usual. When dawn came and the wine was gone, I was screaming drunk; and the utter dread and sickness of withdrawal–coming down SUCKS–was threatening to set in. NO, somewhere deep inside said. I am not done yet. I am not ready to stop. And, I didn’t.

To avoid the “night ending”–losing the buzz, dealing with what was surely going to be a suicidal hangover–I drank more. I opened another bottle and proceeded to down the whole thing, both while I was getting ready and en route to the airport in the cab. Once there, my mood picked up, I got my second wind, and though I was THIS close to being drunky-drunk, everything seemed clearer. I got to my terminal and downed a few beers–beer couldn’t hurt, right? It would hydrate me, I lied.

The plane took off and I had an “amazing” seat-mate, some married asshole who was flirting with me and drinking with me (wine for breakfast anyone?). We had the most “marvelous” conversation, and by the time our flight touched down about an hour later, I had definitely gone from drunker to drunkest. Of course, I was STILL hanging on, desperate for the party not to end, so I convinced this guy to have one more drink with me–another bar, another airport.

Then (finally?), I blacked out. DUH. Piecing together the texts and my shoddy memory of how this scenario was resolved, I concluded the following: I must have been stumbling around LAX for at least two hours blacked out; my friend had texted numerous times that he was waiting for me and would be leaving VERY soon if my ass didn’t show itself; I remember my friend heaving me into the passenger seat of his car and driving home; I was slouched next to him, and it was only then that I registered that my jeans were soaked from top to bottom–my entire pants were drenched in urine. I had pissed myself, and I had been walking around LAX like this for two fucking hours, and people must have noticed, including my friend. OH, GOD. Oh god oh god oh god.

Cue the remorse that haunts me to this day, that prods at my soul, begging to come in; that ends up saturating my gut with its daily drip-drip-dripping.

I slept at his place until about 5 that afternoon–the whole day, gone–while he went out and did some errands. What must he have been thinking? Fortunately, he is one of the forgivers. While he was quite upset (for a long time after that weekend, I imagine), we made the best of the night. I will never forget his stare, wary, as we swayed together in our costumes at some bar in LA and I drank again–this time, three small glasses of wine just to take the edge off and make me feel somewhat normal again. That’s where the boa comes in: I went as the Mexican goddess of death, or Santa Muerte, and the boa was to give it a festive, flowery feel.

Now? That fucking boa above my desk HAUNTS me. While I definitely felt like death that night (I was still mightily hung over, shaking even), I was riding on utter gratitude for my friend–and, that “lovey dovey” feeling that you get when you are coming off the booze, grateful to be alive, thankful beyond recognition to have made it through yet another hangover. Now? I look up and see that boa, and it makes my entire inner body shudder slightly every time I do.

So, why not take it down? I can’t. That day still haunts me. And, I’m actually OK with that. I think I actually NEED the constant reminder of both how bad it got–I feel somewhat ill just remembering it again in such detail–and how far I’ve come. I’ve long since made amends with my friend, who never held it against me anyway. I’ve been getting sober for over 16 months, and I’ve been sober for a continuous 221 days. I was sober last Halloween. I was sober last Christmas, and New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day, and Easter, and my birthday, and the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. I will be sober this Halloween, too.

Yet, I have ghosts. That incident haunts me, one of a seeming-eternity of nights (and days) blacked out and left for dead. And, the least scary thing about it was my costume. Santa Muerte is a “personification of death…associated with healing, protection, and safe delivery to the afterlife.” Is it not worth noting that it was I who chose to dress up as a goddess of death? Or, that this very same goddess also embodies the afterlife? Maybe Santa Muerte was simply looking out for me that night, and all the others, too, waiting for the old me to finally die so that she could transport the new me to a better place?

I don’t trust people who don’t drink!

3 Jul

1:11 pm

Picture it: it’s beer o’clock and I’m trying to get the office to go out for drinks. Some people still have work to do, so will join later. OK. Some people would prefer to stay on and finish work that could be done tomorrow. UM…All right. And, some people…don’t want to go. WHAT? You don’t drink? Huh? Wait, WHAT? You don’t WANT to drink?

This was back in my early 20s. It started back then, this distrust and dislike, really, of nondrinkers. And, year after year, like chapters in a book without end, this, MY STORY, kept growing. My early 30s, graduate school, journalists who should have known that drinking was as much a part of the curriculum as First Amendment law cases: What, you’re not sticking around to drink for another three hours? It’s only midnight, bars are open until 4, dudes. And now, mid-30s: What, you have to go and grab food? What, you don’t drink at all? You have kids and a husband to go home to? Wait…What the FUCK are you doing here? Oh, it’s the company Christmas party, I suppose you were invited.

I remember being baffled, really, when coworkers, fellow students, roommates, and friends didn’t want to go out drinking. (Now I realize that maybe *I* was that annoying drunk who, even back in the day when I didn’t black out and go batshit nuts on their asses, was stupid flirtatious, ridiculous repetitive, and simply Not That Interesting.) Baffled, yes. Annoyed, too: how could they rain on MY Parade? And distrustful: don’t they realize how much FUN they’re missing? Don’t they understand that THIS is where the deals, so to speak, are made?

And, I won’t deny it: I had MUCH different relationships with coworkers, let’s say, with whom I drank after work. Of course, we became actual friends. More than that, we were able to let our hair down, get to know each other outside the cubicle. And, a lot of the time, drinking after work led to positive things, like interoffice romances (where else did you meet men if you were in your 20s in the ’90s?), business partnerships, and if anything, a lot of hilarious–and good–memories.

Would I take back all the experiences that were brought by drinkin’? Not those of my 20s, that’s for sure. My early 30s, though, at least a good portion of them. I think I did myself more harm than good by staying at the bar from 5 pm to closing at 4 am–with my fellow grad school classmates, who were, actually, judging me because every turn was really a test, not a game of who could drink the most. I lost out, for sure, when my drinking after work at one job led to me being fired for missing two entire work days because I was, um, being held in a cell with 20 other women waiting to sit before the judge on public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest charges (and worse, I’m sure; I never asked the lawyer).

A part of me now totally gets my old boss, who simply never touched alcohol. I hated her for that, but I can actually appreciate her choices now. I GET those people who declined going out in favor of going home to cook dinner and get ready for another day of work. I GET those others who came, had three beers, and left…because, um, they were drunk and it was a school night.

What I don’t get is why I feel like THEY won, and I LOST. I’m bitter, I guess, and in a way, I’m bitter a little bit toward them for NOT TELLING ME TO GET MY ASS HOME. You’re a smart girl, why are you doing this to yourself?, I wish I had heard more and louder. There must have been friends who said this to me, but for the most part, in my 20s and 30s, when I was getting worse and worse, everyone else seemed to not really care. Or, maybe they were just thinking, “I’m glad it’s her and not me.”

In any case, it’s pretty clear that I’ve lost my distrust of teetotalers now, and know the answer to the question, Why don’t you drink? What I don’t know the answer to is, What took me so long to figure it out?

The urge left me–NOT

25 Jun

12:03 pm

There was this guy at meetings–older dude, and sort of the “king” of AA down here. The ringleader. NICE man, lovely man. However, he always shared along one of several themes, and one was how “the urge to drink simply left him–just vanished–when he stepped foot in the rooms.” UH HUH.

This post has nothing to do with AA, but everything to do with that URGE to drink, and how it doesn’t just vanish. I would say that that is neurologically impossible, but even I know that nothing is impossible. And, what do I know, which brings me quickly to a point:

Everyone’s drinking problem is unique. The one thing that I left AA certain about was this fact. Everyone has different reasons for drinking, and different patterns of craving. Everyone might drink alcoholically–that is to say, compulsively–but they might not “be alcoholics.” Whatever that means. And, everyone’s recovery process is different, takes different amounts of time, and can’t really be compared to another’s. As with drunken war stories, you can’t compare notes. There is, in fact, no one-size-fits-all.

After a year (more or less) of sobriety, I still have cravings. I still WANT TO DRINK, YES I DO! What is different now–finally–is that I don’t believe it’s going to be all that great, or that it’s what I really want. In fact, I’m almost too tired and too busy to think about it. I know the process will likely result in my downing of at LEAST two bottles of red wine in one sitting, and then doing or saying something idiotic (or irreparably stupid) in a blackout, so…NO, THANKS. Maybe later, wolfie, like, tomorrow. Better yet, let’s set a date for next week, mmm-kay? Hmm…I think maybe next month, actually–you’ll need some time to heal after I kick you in the face and put a large boot against your skull. What? What’s that? Were you trying to say something? FUCK YOU, WOLFIE!

What’s struck me lately is how I notice other people’s “drinking problem” and/or literal, drinking problems. For instance, I went over to a friend’s house yesterday, after a swim. He’s nice, but I don’t think his wife likes me. As conversation passes, I notice that he’s drunk (well, he did have a few beers, but I realize he must have had more before meeting my boyfriend and me at the beach) and his wife is…fidgety. Maybe she’s drunk? I know she drinks (“she can hang,” as it were)–we got drunk together once, and it did not end well, for me anyway.

Maybe she’s feeling that pull? OH, do I know that pull, I thought to myself. That irritation, that want want want to drink another right now, even though there are people in my house, I don’t care about them. That FOCUS on the wine. THE WINE. That anxious flurry of activity, of bodily movement in no particular direction because you’re either already tipsy or you just can’t sit still. And, you don’t really notice it. But, I do. Why? Because my body has finally relaxed into a position of attention, of self-awareness, of calm; I am not thinking about drinking, I am thinking about YOU, about this conversation, about what’s going on in this moment. My already sharp powers of perception (ONE good thing about being an introvert all these years) are even sharper now that I’m sober enough to embrace that calm. I wonder, do I have a calming effect on her, or is she too wrapped up in her head to notice? Am I pulling out my sober card? Does she see it? I don’t think so; I think I’m imagining this…but it sure does feel like I have some super-connection with people who are struggling, who want to quit, who know they drink too much. Maybe it’s that I made an ass of myself that one time we drank (I know I did later, with my boyfriend, but I was semi-blacked out when she and I hit our stride that day)? Ah, me. What DO I know?

And then there are the problems caused by drinking. I got an email last night from a friend who had a rough drunk episode last Saturday–three hours of blackout during an event in which, from what I could tell from the pictures on Facebook, she went a little bit crazier than usual. I mean, I had developed such a–how to put it?–hollow, steel-lined hole in my heart from my blackouts in the big city, and all that they entailed, that her story made me cringe. Jesus, so many avoidable problems come up when you drink too much (like those unnecessary flashbacks from the movie “Saw,” for instance)!? It made me appreciate my now-calm life: I’d so much rather be cooking lasagne with my boyfriend after a day at the beach than spending time making out in a stupor on the sidewalk before passing out in my own vomit; only to be driven home and pass out, lose my phone, and wake up in what’s now a murky stupor and wander over to a neighbor’s to make out with him. I can hear the echo of deep space in my heart–it’s a memory that seems to have seeped into my bone marrow, stained it a shade of ink–and it makes my soul ache. (And, I’ve done MUCH worse, so I’m just using her story as an example here, not as a lesson.)

Problems, indeed.

Me? I’ve got today, and I’ve got a calm, full heart. The urge may not have left (yet), or even the compulsive behavior–I know it probably won’t, for me. What has gone, though, is any romantic notion of how fun, or fulfilling, drinking actually is.

Do I see 90 days coming up? Why, yes I do!

5 Jun

11:27 am

It’s hard to know where to begin, but I guess I’ll start with, I’m still sober and it was beyond easy to not drink on my trip. And, sure I feel proud, and relieved–in that order–but above all, I’m surprised. I didn’t really want to drink! It was like, I had no time, and found every reason NOT to. I can’t drink now, but maybe tomorrow, I kept telling myself. Today’s not going to work, but maybe tomorrow I can fit in wasting a few hours sucking down expensive red poison water and planning the next 12 hours of feeling like ass? Sure, OK, maybe wolfie-boy, we’ll see.

In fact, I was so busy, and so head-exploding hot, and so…scared of what I might do, out and about alone, with no safety net and even less tolerant people of a drunken fool stumbling around yelling and throwing fists and nearly falling off the subway tracks…that it was quite easy to see disaster waiting in the wings if I took that first drink. So, I didn’t take that first drink. (Though, there was a moment on Saturday night, when I felt so weird and awkward trying to dance in front of people sober, that I was like, Give me a fucking beer; and my good friend, the one who bailed me out of many a hapless situation, both physically and emotinally, was like, Um, I don’t want to see you go down. And I was like, You’re right, fuck that.)

It was a busy trip, which helped. I do well when I’m busy, and working on my proverbial to-do list. I need to do things, I need to accomplish stuff. Which is a double-edged sword at times, especially in that town. But, I used the exhaustion factor to my advantage and simply didn’t allot any time to drink or be hung over.

It was also hot as a bitch (I mean, hotter than down here, if you can believe it), so that was a turn-off, too. Who wants to be hung over in a stanky apartment when you’ve got less than 72 hours in the Big Apple? A no-brainer…now, at least. Three years ago, I think I would’ve been busting open bottles at 11 pm, drinking until 2 (or however long it took me to pass out); and then getting up, hung over, at 8 or 9, just because I was that hardcore and had that much resilience. Not any more, and thank God(dess).

I also wanted to prove to my friends that I had changed, that things WERE different. No stumblings-home at 4 am. No silly arguments. No perilous shenanigans. Or WORSE. I wanted to be who I claimed I was and am, and I think I succeeded.

It was also, well, something freaky to walk by the hundreds of bars and restaurants, corners and crannies, old apartments, former school buildings–all places where DRAMA WENT DOWN. Drinking drama. Oy. The lack of self-care, self-respect, self-love I showed myself back then. It wasn’t about having fun, it was about fear, and self-sabotage: the blackouts, so very many of them, which hid from plain sight the horrible things I said and did and were done to me. Ugh. Anyway, these memories helped me to know that, NO, ONE DRINK WOULD NOT BE OK. One drink would likely mean at the worst, endangering my life, at the least, pissing off my host. It was like standing at the edge of a frozen lake, not wanting to step onto the thin ice and watch it crack. No, I simply could not do it.

So, lots of stuff got done, is all I can say. I got up early and went running on Thursday morning (which felt so…normal, considering that I NEVER did this in the five years I lived there); made it to my dentist appointment; went for a quick dress shop (unsuccessful); and then, hopped up to Harlem to attend what turned out to be more of an informal meet-and-greet than a new student orientation. Lots and lots to think about there, but that’s for another post.

On Friday, I renewed my drivers license; shopped and walked and sweat; went back to my friend’s to change and take her out to dinner for hosting me. She drank, and by God(dess), I had ZERO PANGS. I mean, it was interesting to see HER reaction to my not drinking, which was to ask me if it was OK if she drank. And, to see just how little I actually know about hanging with drunk people. Like, I kept having to remind myself that she was getting drunk, which would explain her rising voice, her increasing talkativeness. It was weird. I mean, I have so little experience being on the receiving end of a drunk person’s inebriated behavior that it was, well, enlightening to watch it unfold.

By Saturday, I knew I wouldn’t drink (even though I still wanted to). I went to brunch and the park with another friend, who drank with our meal and who also asked me if it was OK. (Yes, I do feel blessed to have friends that are so supportive, but I’ve been pretty open about everything.) The big test came that night, when I–wait for it–WENT OUT sober. Not a drop! I’ve been worrying about this for a long time: sure, I can go out here, sober, but can I go out, like really Go Out, in a big city, where everyone, it seems, is drinking and talking and partying all around…and not only stay sober, but have fun doing so? Yes, it sucked at first. It felt hard (reawwy reawwy hard), but once I got over the awkwardness and realized that no one really fucking cares about me or what I’m doing–all was fine. Great, actually. I had just as much fun, if not more, than if I had been drinking.

The biggest revelation I had was this: I think and care WAY too much about what others think about me. In fact, I am about 99.5 percent more conscious of myself than anyone else. And, a sad point: I looked around and realized that I, too, had no idea about what was going on with anyone else. I am so limited in perceiving others’ realities, and vice versa. In fact, the only reality there really is is how we react to our thoughts and feelings. Anyway, I digress.

There could have been the full spectrum of drunkenness at the bar, and I wouldn’t have known by just looking at people. Were some peeps a little drunk, a lot drunk, blacked out? Were some dealing with the inner hell that is alcoholism? It’s likely. What was especially poignant was realizing that I was probably the only person there even wondering about who was dealing with a personal inferno, let alone CARING about it. People don’t care about your drinking problem. And, that’s what makes it so very difficult and distressing when you’re out, as an alcoholic: you’re in a hell, whether you’re being a “good drunk” or a blacked out asshole; yet, no one knows, no one CAN know, and therefore, you’re alone.

I felt sorry for people like me at that moment, and felt again that same indignation over peeps who have not forgiven me for some of my blackout shenanigans. It’s called empathy, people; get some.

Sure, I might have drunk a beer, but there was no way in HELL I was caving–and, one beer might have been all it would’ve taken. After that night, walking home feeling so alive and empowered, I realized something: getting and staying sober is the key to actually owning your life. It might be pedantic (people who drink only once in a while to escape or loosen up, let’s say, would categorize drinking as a small detail in their lives, for instance), but it fans out. It’s about facing your thoughts and feelings and learning how to own them. And, with that ownership comes true freedom–the ability to make choices and move forward, typically. Instead of stagnating, you get to choose how things go. It really is liberation. And not from simply being addicted to ethanol.

Sunday was tiring, as I walked, and went shopping, and got my hair cut, and finally, came home and packed and got ready to go. I overslept the next morning, but hey, no worries, I’m fucking SOBER getting to the airport and nothing could be better. HOW EASY is it to travel not hung over? Jesus, I can’t believe how hard I made it for myself, always drinking the night before flying? Even though I only got about four hours sleep that night and every other night, I’d pick sleep-deprived a thousand million times over hung over.

All in all, a very surprising trip. So, like I said, I’m the Grand Marshall and this sober parade is COMIN’ through, bitches!

Of course I want to drink! But I won’t…

24 Apr

11:58 pm

And, I know I won’t. For now anyway. This post is mainly for others, to shore them/us up in the face of those continual cravings. I’m not proud of it, but almost a year later and I still have a LOT of cravings. Then again, I’ve made a lot of big changes, am trying to resolve some important decisions (to have kids or not, to move back to the mainland or not, to go back to school this fall for another master’s degree or not), and feel at odds between the two! Before I quit drinking, I don’t think I would’ve been so easily able to articulate exactly what is triggering my cravings, so that, I would say, is DEFINITE progress. Go, me. (I think?)

I remember the first many months (six?) of getting sober, and they weren’t easy at all. And, for some reason, I’ve been having trouble putting thoughts into words (gasp!) the past few days, so here’s a numerical list of some of what I’ve learned since last June about the ongoing process of choosing not to drink instead of drink:

1. I always want to drink. And, when people at AA meetings, or on the blogs, say that “the urge to drink has left them” or “being sober is so fucking awesome,” I CANNOT reflect that. It just does not gel as true for me. OF COURSE I WANT TO DRINK. Duh. Yes, I like drinking. Yes, I want that first glass or three. Yes, I like feeling buzzed; I want that feeling of warmth, of place, of lack of struggle against my existential issues. I LIKE feeling nothing, sometimes. And, frankly, a part of me thinks that wine was a good solution, at some point in my life. And, damn it, sometimes I really miss it.

2. In general, hating on oneself is PART OF THE DRINK. Once I got sober, I realized that all that self-loathing and self-ruminating was, in fact, not necessary to hold on to. The longer I went sober, the less sad and depressed I felt, the less I was beholden to the past, the less I felt the need to say I was sorry about the horrifying things I had said or done. I learned that it was not only OK to let it go, but also that I needed to. No more apologies. No more beating myself up. I’m not saying that amends aren’t needed, but when you continue to remain sober, you start to let it all go. And, if that includes friends and family members who choose to either hold onto their grudges or be fearful of your newfound emotional maturity, well, they CAN go; they’re not worth fighting to keep.

3. Getting sober (at least getting a handle on it) BEFORE hitting AA meetings is the way I would advise myself to do it. I found, personally, that going to AA meetings was a HUGE stressor. All these “steps,” all this “ideology” that I didn’t know whether or not I agreed with (I don’t); it was all Way Too Much. Some of the time, I had to uncomfortably defend myself against the “AA bullies” at the meetings, saying repeatedly, I need to take my time, I need to do it in my own time. Looking back, I can now say that it’s this, simply: Getting sober comes first, getting “right with God” comes a distant second. My refusal to cave in the face of everyone at the meetings pressuring me to “do it their way” was by far, the best foot I’ve ever put down. Getting sober does NOT require any kind of spiritual epiphany, in my opinion. Getting sober requires your acknowledgement, slow as it may come, that the reason this is so hard is because addiction changes your brain circuitry. Getting sober requires you flexing your sober muscle–which is you not drinking when you really want to–over and over and over again.

I’m pretty sure that *if I had not run into severe consequences,* I would have kept drinking. For sure, actually. Yet, with crippling hangovers and the inability to predict what I would do when I was blacked out, it was simply no longer an option. It was like, drinking wine could be as dangerous as drinking toilet water. It might NOT be, but it COULD be.

All that being said, I can say that I like being sober. And, here’s what I like specifically:

1. Not giving up my power.
2. Not feeling trapped by the desire to drink away my social anxiety.
3. Not revealing my anger, especially in its raw form.
4. Being able to see others for who they are.
5. Being able to make choices based on real information and real emotional feedback.

I go back to these things in my mind, and like others, play out the horrifying–and possible fatal–video to the end. I think a LOT about how drinking would take away my power, how it would expose me, how I’d make bad choices based on really bad information. I just can’t. I’ve come to care about myself way too much to do that to myself anymore!

What I’m saying is, you can still really want to drink and not feel like a noncommittal failure because of this. Wanting to quit (action based on higher brain planning) CAN COEXIST–does, I bet in 100 percent of the “cases”–with wanting to drink (desire based on inner brain reacting). Take a deep breath, then, and know you are on the right track.

(And, then she hit “delete.” Oh, yeah! The best part about being sober? Being willing and able to simply think all of the above and then…let it go. All these thoughts came, they will all go, and I don’t have to either react or care about them. Huzzah!)

How to put this so that it doesn’t sound as bad as it is? I drank.

20 Mar

12:50 am

There, I said it. I did it. I would’ve had six months in a few weeks, too. Why? I guess I just felt…overwhelmed. Depressed. Frustrated. Physical symptoms of maybe a depressive mood swing that just weren’t going away–static brain, sinkhole feeling in my stomach. I had been planning it for weeks, though, so maybe the above, while real, were just excuses.

To be honest, it wasn’t fun–the drunk was boring and mechanical, I never actually felt buzzed, and what little buzz I did feel was abruptly taken away by my blacking out within, oh, about an hour of when I started drinking. Zero to 60 in like, an hour. How lame.

However, I learned a lot. And, while I still have to process some of it (I’ll do that when I’m not hung over) this, in essence, is the gist of it:

1. It still sucks to be hung over. Like, way sucks. I’ve spent today feeling alternately sluggish and anxious. I threw up a little last night (of *course* I don’t remember doing so, just like I don’t remember MOST of the conversation I had with my mom on the phone or passing out on the couch) so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. There’s just a lethargy within, a damp feeling of confusion, uncertainty, sadness–it’s the hangover, and there is simply nothing GOOD here, in this state of mind/being.
2. I can’t drink normally. It doesn’t change. In fact, I went right back to where I left off.
3. Wine takes me to a dark place, a place of the past. I’ve grown used to being in the present, where there is light, where there is looking forward. Last night, I drank and went back, and got upset by events that have happened and aren’t happening anymore, that I haven’t let go. I think I simply NEED to let some things go. Let them be in the past, with no more dwelling.

And, I had SO many “God shots” yesterday, too, it was hilarious in a not-ha-ha kind of way that I drank anyway. From seeing two people I know, driving in their cars to the 5:30 AA meeting downtown as I drove by, en route to the store to buy wine; to having to go BACK to the store a second time to buy a corkscrew; to in between all of this, receiving a long email from one of my friends, complaining about the out-of-control, mean drinkers in her social circle and how proud she is of me for having almost six months sober!

Eh, I’m not really upset about having to start the count over. In fact, counting days is OK for a while, but… I realized today that counting days makes this into too much of a game. This is not a game, this is my life. In ways big but mostly small and subtle, stopping using alcohol as a coping mechanism has changed my life, my lifestyle, my way of viewing my life. And, all I know tonight is, I don’t want to–I can’t–go back to the other way.

Happy sober New Year! Or, I do not want what I haven’t got

31 Dec

8:53 pm

(WHAT? Oops! I meant to have this post on New Year’s Eve, but alas, my procrastinating self hasn’t figured out how to set the “self-timer” thingie on WordPress, and I still go in and manually enter the publish time (which I accidentally set for December 31, 2013). Anyhoo, here’s my rant from a few nights ago, and to be perfectly honest, I’m so over it: the event, the thoughts re: the event, and my annoying self. Done. Still…have a read and then let’s all move on, shall we?)

I haven’t been sober for New Year’s Eve in like, a decade or more. And, let me tell you, it’s GOT to be better than last year’s.

I’ve been ruminating a lot lately about my “drinking past,” and frankly, I’m over it! However, some people aren’t, and that hurts.

I called my brother last night; we haven’t spoken for almost three months (not for lack of trying), since his girlfriend’s vicious response to my amends letter–a very heartfelt, honest apology and attempt to make things right (even though, months had gone by before my brother changed his mind and told me that no, things weren’t OK, that his girlfriend was still “very angry” with me).

I’ve told the story before, but in a nutshell, last year I got really, REALLY drunk at their house on New Year’s Eve. Deerunky drunk drunk. Drunker than I think I’ve ever been, EVER. It was the culmination of a long year of basically hitting bottom over and over and over–I felt like the skipping stone that just wouldn’t stop!

Anyway, I ended up blacking out (the flip just SWITCHED) and screaming at my brother and his girlfriend, calling her names; ranting about what a crazy bitch she is (which she is, literally–victim of incest, rape, and severe psychological abuse; but has chosen to hate her way through it), how my brother doesn’t care about me, how they’ve isolated themselves in rural America, how his girlfriend has ruined his life. Blah blah blah. Yelling, crying, rolling on the floor–you get the picture. (There was also a rant about how much I hate Coldplay, which is sort of awesome and I really wish someone had filmed that part.)

The problem is, IT WAS ALL TRUE, what I said. Doh! Sigh. The worst part about getting blackout drunk is that quite often, there is truth to what you say to other people and about other people in your blackout. If you’re me, anyway. In fact, it’s like, I allow someone a completely unobstructed view of my mind, of what’s really inside my head. YIKES. And, not cool, because there are many things that people just DON’T NEED TO KNOW.

I woke up the next day as if from a nightmare. I had NO idea–it was a total blackout, with practically no flashbacks and no ability to even conjure a feeling of what went down, especially the parts related to me yelling at the girlfriend, who actually ran and hid, according to my brother. When I woke up, I remember feeling extremely pissed off, fuming, confused, and utterly unable to remember WHAT was making me feel so sick in my head, so sick to my stomach. Did I have a nightmare? Something happened, I’m sure of it. Was it a dream?

It wasn’t a dream. My brother and I had a painful talk on the stoop after I got up, and then I left. Drove the fucking 6 or 8 hours to DC with the WORST hangover on record (I’m surprised I didn’t hallucinate and drive into the ditch in the middle of West Virginia), and then spent the next, well, 12 months saying I was/am sorry. I finally wrote a letter to the girlfriend, and I got the most vicious reply in return (she wrote me a Facebook mail while drunk; does the word “irony” mean anything?).

Anyway, I’ve tried, kept calling, and I get little to nothing in return. At this point, I’m the one who’s pissed that they’re not budging–they’re continuing to hold a mighty grudge, and not ONCE have they asked me about my drinking, my getting sober, how it’s going, how I’m doing with all this. Not one question. In August, I told my brother on the phone that I had 60 days sobriety, and his reply was an awkward grunt. Oh-kay, then, guess I won’t be bringing that up with you EVER again.

I haven’t brought it up, and I doubt we can truly mend this. I’m pissed at them for not only not forgiving OR forgetting, but for lying about the fact that they did! I know I shouldn’t feel this way, because I was the one who messed up, but come on. When I write a heartfelt letter to the woman and she responds by getting drunk and telling me that I’m a “cunt who will never be loved by any man and that I should die”? And my brother, not even admitting that she sent it, let alone apologizing on her behalf, even just a little?

(To be sure, I’ve talked it out with my mother and uncle, who know the girlfriend, and they’re both on MY side. Just sayin’. I’m not sure why I keep bothering myself about someone who simply isn’t capable of having a normal relationship.)

So, this has turned into a rant, but I’m sorry, I needed to vent it in hopes of setting it free, finally, this year. I have to move on. I don’t want to be there anymore. That place was dark. I want light. I want clear thinking, healthy relating, progress.

Tonight, I’m grateful for all I have, all I’ve accomplished, and all the people in my life who have supported me through a very progressive year! I’m sober, and I’m living in [beautiful island where I now live]. I’m freelance writing/editing, and I’m doing it from wherever I want–this was a big goal of mine, one that I didn’t think I could accomplish even this year, let alone WHILE I was getting sober. I got back to [cold east coast city] for a month or so and re-discovered a possible future life there. I checked the fuck out of [cold west coast city referred to as hotel named in famous song] and have not looked back. There, I was living alone in the Tenderloin, drinking every night, and being miserable. Now, I get to care for dogs, another person, myself. I get to work and live. I have the sun every day, the ocean (one that you can swim in without a wet suit, that is) by my side. I get to dream about the future. I get to appreciate the present. I have choices, and I get to make them every single moment of every single day.

Happy new year, friends. I would not be here, in this place, without the support of my sober blogging community. You guys rock, and have taught me that whatever path you take to get to Sober Land, as long as you get there is what matters.

2013…and 90 days, coming up!

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