Tag Archives: coping mechanism

Recovery…from family time

14 Jul

4:04 pm

I’m back from my 4th of July trip to see my dad and mom, back to back–along with my brother.  And, whoa, Nellie, what a (head) trip, indeed!

See, I’m going to be blunt–and maybe it’s not my place, but I have to talk about it:  both my parents suffer (yes, I know they are in pain, which makes me feel pained) from untreated mental health disorders.  We think my dad has bipolar disorder, I think my mom has anxiety and possibly never-diagnosed OCD, and we know for a fact that they’ve both been treated for depression.  Not a big thang, you know, if everyone involved SEES that they are suffering and makes a CONCERTED EFFORT to get and stay in treatment.  But, you know, they don’t.  They are not.  They try to hide or avoid their issues, and they seem to be too afraid to confront them in order to change.

Of course, I get it!  I could be describing MYSELF when I was in the midst of my drinking disorder!  And, I know it takes what it takes, but…  They are both in their 70s!?  I don’t know what to do most of the time except to practice not reacting the way I want to (in anger) and accept their behavior but try to lead and/or engage them in what I see as “healthier” techniques of relating.  It’s just all very hard when these people are your parents and not some strangers, or even someone else’s parents.  Our shared history and my emotional baggage makes it harder to not react emotionally.

It makes me angry to see both of them not really ever seeming to resolve anything on the inside, but mostly, it is just draining to have to deal with it.  I felt so drained coming home, and it took me days to stop being really angry and reactive and just heavy-hearted and like my brain had been scrambled.  To make matters worse, they had these issues growing up, and they affected me in a big way–it took me years to even realize what bizarre coping mechanisms I had developed let alone start dealing with them so that they stopped negatively impacting all of my own relationships, from personal to professional!

I SO want to just out them sometimes, to yell and scream, to tell them “what is wrong with them.”  But, I don’t.  It just doesn’t seem…worthwhile.  I’ve thought about writing a letter, which would allow me to be more measured and empathetic, but again, it just seems like it might be a waste of time.  Plus, I’m not ready to go there AFTER the letter has been read, as in, I don’t have the desire to be that open right now, as their daughter, and/or the ability to play the role of psychologist.  So, I just leave it–with my mom, I think she is trying to work on some of her problems, and my dad, well, I kind of consider him a lost cause at the moment because he’s manic, and it seems like a hallmark trait of mania is that until the person hits bottom, they honestly don’t believe there is anything wrong with their thoughts and behaviors.

It was great, though, to get caught up on on this stuff, and to be with each other, and to just be real.  And a part of me feels sure that somehow, seeing their kids helps them stabilize a bit, normalizes whatever tangent their emotional or thought disorder has taken them on–I imagine our kid-parent bond as a powerful antidote, at least temporarily, to feeling estranged from themselves; it helps me, in a way, to feel less estranged from life, to reel me back into something bigger than myself, gives me a sense of order again, helps me find “myself” again, at least one that I recognize.  I hope that I’m right, and it makes me realize that I should see them more often (I hadn’t actually seen my mom for two years, and with my dad, it had been a year…but before last year, it was three years!).

You would think that all of this would have made me want to drink, and I admit, there were a few moments when I really did think a glass of wine would make it easier to just escape, to get rid of the bad feelings, to disappear for a while.  Of course, I didn’t; I had plenty of time to think about ALL that I’ve worked for the past six years, and how, really, one drink would lead me back to where I was when I started writing this blog in June, 2012.  I’ve had quite a few moments, too, in the past month or so, when I’ve felt SO FUCKING BORED here, in my new home, that I have wanted to “start drinking again.”  It’s weird how in this case, it’s not a glass of wine I want, but the entire habit, or activity, of “drinking again.”

Not to worry:  they are just thoughts, and I have every reason in the world to NOT start drinking again.  In fact, just this morning, as I was listening to a podcast about a man who lost the use of his lower body from a drinking and driving accident, I just felt so…horrible for him, and disgusted for him, but also grateful for the simple beauty of the GRAND, POWERFUL act of getting sober, of being sober.  It does keep going, and it does get better, and I am still feeling wonder-full about it all–in spite of family pressures, and in spite of the occasional side of boredom that comes with the eggs and toast of life!  (haha)  Have a great Saturday, all!

Old news

5 Oct

9:42 am

Hi, everyone! It’s been too long. I’m not even sure if my fingers can type, let alone my head compose words. BUT, here I am–in the city, tired, and feeling a bit whirlwinded.

It’s the city where I started this blog, where I got sober, basically.

It’s dark in the apartment that I’m renting for a month, and I’m just not used to it. I’m not used to being so divorced from my natural surroundings. Weirdddd…

So, yeah. Tired. Tired of lugging shit. Tired because I am sleeping on his couch and haven’t yet inflated my air mattresses. Tired because I walked (wandered aimlessly?) around the city all day yesterday, and did no work. And, I wondered, as I wandered: has this been my life to date? I mean, I have done so much aimless wandering around cities. And, while I guess it’s part of growing up and getting tired of that; it still fills me with a little bit of dread, like, maybe this wandering is supposed to have an expiration date for a reason, and that reason would be to put down roots?

I also did it alone yesterday, and while I used to absolutely love being alone–especially when wandering as a tourist–I didn’t like it yesterday. I felt bored, and lonely. I felt less than alive, as in, if I had had someone with me, he or she would have made the day’s observations more real. That sort of startled me, because it goes to show how much I’ve changed.

I have to admit: I drank about 6 ounces (is that “a glass” in the normal world?) of red wine the other night. I think it was last Saturday. It was relatively uneventful, actually. However, I HAD A HANGOVER THE NEXT DAY. AFTER A GLASS. No kidding! And, it sucked, like every single one of my hangovers: it was an entire day of symptoms (albeit milder ones than if I had had a whole bottle or two) that included feeling tired, fuzzy, and extremely neurotic (anxious and weepy and full of negative, circular thoughts).

I guess what prompted me was a variety of the same things that I usually–these days, as a sober person–let pass, and DON’T drink wine to solve anymore: feeling trapped in my emotional world, feeling alone to have to deal with “it,” restlessness/boredom/ennui. I think, for me, it was necessary to try and see that nope, not only does it figuratively not work, it literally DOES NOT WORK.

(Does this make me want to try white wine? Kind of, yes. Or, maybe that red was bad and I had a bad reaction? Hmm… I see where this is going, Wolfie. You stupid dog, you exhaust me.)

I drove around in circles, and ended up having an “emotional hangover” before I even made it to the store. I already felt headache-y and out of breath. I bought it, though–a shitty, $9 bottle of like, Jacob’s Creek or something–and headed home. I drank two sips in the car, and then, poured myself a tiny glass–my boyfriend said it wasn’t even 6 ounces, which is a regular pour at his bar–and drank it about as slowly as I’ve ever drunk anything!

I did NOT want to be hung over, and I was actually just scared of that prospect. I simply cannot deal with one more hangover, period. I don’t know about you, but my hangovers were like being transported to Dante’s Inferno for 12 hours. I think I’ve detailed it already on this blog, somewhere BACK IN TIME.

Yes, I went back in time as I drank that glass. Essentially, it was a flop. I felt woozy. Drowsy. I tried to read, but couldn’t. I already felt down, emotionally, and it just made it worse. There was no buzz. And, I was so freaked out about having a hangover that I thought, I might as well fold my hand while I’m still ahead. I had no desire to drink more. I corked it and sat there, wondering how I got here.

The main thing I kept thinking was, THIS IS NOT HOW I DO ANYMORE. This is not how I solve my problems. It wasn’t so much that I felt disappointed in myself than it was that I was choosing to go back to the old me–and, I was confused as to what old me I was referring to. There is no old me. THIS IS ME, now. How I solve problems is to actually deal with them, confront the emotional pain head on. Work around it. Find a way to deal such that it doesn’t linger. Anyway, it just felt like I was going back in time, and I had no business being there.

It’s a little bit how I feel now, in the city.

I went to my storage unit the day after I flew in (Friday), and surprised myself. I thought it’d be hard to sort through my stuff and say goodbye, but really, I just dove in and ended up throwing out three huge (13-gallon?) garbage bags and four boxes, as well as sorted out the electronic and paper recyclables. It felt great. I was so sure I would keep my clothes and books, at least, but now I’m wondering…why bother? They remind me of the old me anyway! It all reminds me of the past, the old me, and well…while I do want to cherish how I ended up here, I don’t want to dwell in the past anymore. Which, I think, is what the old “pack rat” me is used to doing.

I wonder if this desire to be “free” is simply a symptom of my desire to wander–I have been a wanderer all my life, maybe afraid to put down roots, maybe just a compulsion that’s in my genes–or if it’s the more positive desire to “let go” and “move on?” I have the overwhelming feeling it’s the latter.

See, I’ve been holding onto this storage unit for over four years, with the idea that I’d move back to the city. Yesterday, I remembered just how much time I spent walking around alone here. And, that’s lonely, especially if you’re single (i.e., have no one really to go home to). I’m no longer single so would be moving back as part of a couple–thankfully, I must admit–but it seems that because I’ve so hardcore done this place in ONE WAY, those memories might always be there, influencing the now, the new, the present.

I went into Trader Joe’s Wine Shop last night, and feeling hugely ambivalent, decided to “just see.” Before I knew it, I turned a corner and inhaled a whiff of wine–someone had dropped a bottle and a clerk was mopping it up. THAT, I told myself as I clenched my gut, is how you’re going to feel, taste, see, and hear if you drink tonight. That red wine stench. No, thank you.

And so, I left the store and got on the train and made my way to a local grocery where I bought delicious staples for dinners for the month. Red wine at night in my apartment in the city–it’s not me anymore. It’s not my life. It CAN’T BE.

It’s old news.

And, so, we go forward. Onward. Keep plugging toward our new reality, which is profoundly more fulfilling and profitable than staying stuck in the wine store-drinking-hangover loop. Drunk and aimless no more.

This, too, shall pass

11 May

1:04 pm

My mom used to and probably still does say this all the time. Such a simple expression, but in action, so majorly effective.

I had to withstand one of those bored-agitated moods last night, and I ended up relying on “this, too, shall pass.” It was the only tool I had left. That and, well, habit of not drinking, ever. Most of the time, I feel too much inertia to get up and go out for a bottle–can you believe that? Last night, I was all, This is too hard now, This isn’t worth it, Who’s going to know?, Who even cares?, What’s one glass?… Mostly, I notice myself gearing up for the wedding–the confrontation with you-know-who, the fact that this will be the first time my manz is meeting the family–and this causes anxiety. I can feel it, and it makes me uncomfortable and preoccupied, but…I know that it is NOT WORTH DRINKING OVER. Plus, I trust that I can muster the calm to endure it for the next two weeks.

Honestly, I’m just worried–I guess is the best word for how I’m feeling–about having to meet and greet and live through an entire weekend with the brother’s girlfriend. I mean, I don’t know what to expect, and I can’t plan for anything but how I will (hopefully) react, which is to do and say nothing. I don’t like not knowing; she’s a wild card. I guess this is a good lesson in letting go, and not trying to orchestrate the universe, and taking care of MY reaction to others and not the other way around. I am not in control of anything but my own insides, which is hard to accept.

On the other (better) hand, I’m not so far gone that I don’t realize that this weekend will be the only time I’ll get to see my family, en masse, for a long while; and, it will be a superb ceremony; and, it will go fast–so, enjoy, and don’t fret the small stuff. And she is frankly, VERY small stuff.

I know this, but I’m still anxious, friends! Arg. This, too, shall pass. (And, once it does, it’ll be pretty much the only other “loose end” to tie off from my drinking days, not counting the people who either have written me off or are hiding their hurt but would like to confront me on something I said or did. Sigh. I’ve tried making amends, and it was a disaster; so, I have to trust that whoever is engaging with me now is not doing so in a passive aggressive way. Btw, I have not been in touch with my brother, and can I tell you how GOOD it feels to not be engaging in/buying into a passive aggressive relationship with him? Very empowering, actually; and, a relief. Sorry to say, but sometimes you just have to let them go, them being even family members.)

Anyway, last night, this did pass. I told myself, Self, you KNOW that this agitated mood will not be around in a few hours, so just sit here, suck it up, and try to distract yourself. Almost like ignoring the pain of a headache (which, actually, I also had), or the twinge of a bad sunburn. Why is it so hard to convince ourselves that this mental and/or emotional pain will pass? I mean, it DID pass, just like a wave. Just like it has been for the past two years! Just like the sunburn or the headache goes away after a predictable amount of time. My mood swing, or whatever this is–simple ennui, feeling unaccomplished, it was raining?–passed, like it always does, within a few hours.

And, am I glad I didn’t drink? Of course.

Remember: this, too, shall pass.

(On that note, I have to run! I promise to post more, and soon.)

Why we binge

29 Mar

1:16 pm

So, it’s been almost two whole weeks since my sober “birthday,” and while I felt (feel) proud and capable and free, the usual stuff continues to come up: worrying about my motivation levels crapping out on me and then, not being able to earn a living; worrying about the wedding in May, where I’m going to have to see my brother and his girlfriend; wanting to drink, surprisingly, out of boredom, out of a general sense of, OK, Now what? The usual stuff is still there, and while I feel much more balanced and able to deal with it, I still do want to drink. More like, I want to have ONE glass of red wine after a hot shower–like, a bubble bath for my insides. But then I remember the million reasons not to, and I let the fantasy go.

Maybe I simply need to set a new goal. Another year? Le sigh. I’ll say it: this “sobriety” thing is getting boring. In quotes because, sometimes, I just don’t think I NEED to be sober. I don’t think I “am an alcoholic.” I used to binge, but…that was out of hand, circumstances sucked, it was a bad time in my life, right? The problem is, I know in my heart that a sacrifice will have to be made on my part if I decide to start drinking again: if I start USING (yes, using) alcohol as reward, as fix, as “bubble bath for my insides,” eventually it will morph into needing it–or at least, feeling disappointed when I can’t have it. And, that’s a prison of the mind. One which I never want to be sentenced to again.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately–more clearly, indeed–about why we binge.

Most of us understand what we mean when we say, “a case of the fuck-it’s.” Fuck it. FUCK IT! I can’t hold back; I can’t hold on; I can’t hold up; I can’t repress, restrict, be good, be appropriate, care. I DON’T WANT TO.

I don’t want to…ANYMORE.

We drink because of this self-imposed “anymore.” We need a break from all that…holding in, holding on, holding above; out; away.

All this time, I’ve been telling myself the story of me: I can’t control myself, I am a binge eater, a binge drinker. I have no self-control.

What was really happening was the opposite. I was CONSTANTLY controlling myself, holding myself back, doing what I hated, not saying or doing or feeling what I believed was “too much,” or “too revealing.” I was repressing feelings, restricting emotions. I was, literally, not allowing myself to eat during the day–of course, I binged when it got too exhausting, or irritating, or I got just plain hungry. I was dabbling in that by the time I was in middle school; it ramped up to full-on bulimia by the time I went to college. I fixed that…only to have it come back in the form of binge drinking.

I think when we binge drink, we feel that particular remorse of “letting go” when we “really should have kept our drinking in order” more intensely than others. And that serves to feed the mentality that makes us want to binge in the first place–oh, hey, I’m flawed, I fucked up again, I can’t control myself, I suck. It seems that there are a lot of drinkers who never berate themselves for “over-drinking.” I think we feel such deep remorse not because we are overindulgent, but because our ideas of indulgence are off. Yes, we are “over-indulging.” However, why is that, in and of itself, such a terrible thing?

It’s a bad thing if you’re always monitoring yourself, and worrying about what others are thinking.

Why would loving someone–or being loved by someone–be a form of self-indulgence? Why would having sex with whomever I want be indulgent? Why would working a job that doesn’t make my brain hurt, eating enough food, walking instead of running–why is that considered by me to be indulgent? We restrict, and we repress–I was afraid to be expressive and therefore, I had to hold myself in all day. Of course it feels good to finally say, I’m just going to fucking DRINK now and not stop until I feel like it!

I think this is learned behavior that can, fortunately, be un-learned. It’s like, we act like children and throw tantrums. The problem is, there is no adult in the room, let alone a parent. Most of the time, we are very lucky when anyone helps us out of our drunken mess.

Back when I first got sober, my counselor hit that nail on the head during one of our sessions when she asked me, What do you like about your day? Uh, nothing. And, could it be that you are rebelling at night, when you drink? Uh, yeah. Maybe. Duh. Of course. And, going a little deeper, I saw that I am not an overindulgent, selfish slug, but someone who is the opposite in her daily life–to a fault, exhausting my resources trying to “carry the weight of the world” when no one asked me to, when no one wanted to be forced to feel grateful. I know that my behavior was learned, and dysfunctional. But, it wasn’t because I lacked self-control. What I lacked was self-respect, and, well, balance. And treats. And love.

During a food or drink binge, my most basic goals seem to be this: releasing (of emotion, of personality that I have been holding in); soothing (the irritability of having to “keep it sucked in all day”); erasing (zoning out, not having to pay attention, not having to “be on,” not having to work or parse information or create). I’ve said it before, but I used to drink so that I couldn’t work–write in my free time, basically. I was afraid of not only failing, but also, having to confront that maybe I didn’t want to write in my free time, that maybe I wasn’t good enough, that maybe I would have to accept that taking a break was necessary, not a waste of time.

So, why we binge? It’s complicated. And, the more we do binge, the more we compromise our innate capacity to put it into perspective. In other words, don’t get down on yourself, and, find other ways to narrow in on that much-needed releasing, self-soothing, and zoning out. Easier said than done.

Happy Saturday, all!

Planning “me” time

26 Jan

1:08 pm

So, today, and yesterday, I have “me” time. Why? Because I planned out all my “non-me” time for this week. Sure, it’ll be a busy week, and sure, I won’t have anymore “me” time until next weekend; but like planning when and how I’m going to work, I’ve found that it is simply essential for me to both plan my off-hours and then take them. Like, I don’t have to ruin today with tomorrow, you know?

Since it’s all planned out, I can enjoy my time off, like really enjoy it. For me, these days, that usually involves a lot of walking, zoning, looking at the trees and water, and being with my dogs. Lately, I’ve been doing yoga classes, willingly, which is a nice step forward. Tiptoe’ing back into hobbies, like strumming my guitar, and listening to music. (And, again, I have to limit it, seeing how I’ve noticed my tendency to need to listen to ALL music, and know EVERYTHING about the historical and social relevance of new artists, and then, the sheer NUMBER of new sounds just makes my brain explode in a good way, but then, the fact that there is SO MUCH to catch up on makes it implode in a bad way–Jesus, someone get me out of my head!)

As I’ve said a gazillion times on this blog, a huge problem I used to have (still have) is taking time off. I mean, Turning It Off. Before, I was unable to turn it off–to stop working, to stop doing, to stop thinking about working or doing–so I drank. I drank to turn it off, I drank to be able to turn it off. You know? I mean, I drank because I had this anxiety around achievement and accomplishment. When I was faced with “down time,” either I didn’t want to be creative and work and do, or, I was afraid of trying and failing. Ack. So, I drank to avoid, but I also drank because I didn’t know how to just sit, without feeling all panicky and paranoid.

Now? Aside from sort of re-training myself to embrace down time, to accept balance into my life; I’ve also realized that I have to plan for it. Belle has a genius thing down, which is a day trip. Me? I just take time to actually plan my off-hours now, which means I plan my on-hours better (even more than I used to, I suppose). And, lately, with my mood improving and my energy coming back, I’ve been seeing improvements in balance–I CAN take time off, on the weekends or during the day, and then come back to work, recharged. Like, clearing out my brain, making way for more information, more concentration. I need this, especially in the kind of work I do.

Yesterday, I did some stuff I never do, and while I was like, Oh, this isn’t going to help, I’m going to feel more stressed when I do have to get back to work, I’m wasting time–I did it anyway. And I feel so much better today! Took a couple hours to sweep and mop the place; listened to music (old and new) for like, 6 or 7 hours; did some yoga; went for a 3-mile run (my runs need a lot of pain management); and then, I don’t know, just hung out with my pets and the night sky. See, before, when I was drinking, I COULD do the hanging-out-with-the-night-sky thing, but I never appreciated it. And I had to drink to keep the panicky feelings away. I don’t know, I just could not spend time without worrying about what I was spending it on, without wanting to run away, screaming in agony. Turns out, I wasn’t spending time, wine was spending me.

Anyway, this is a long-winded way of saying, time off is essential. And, even though I thought taking time off with drinking was worth it, it totally defeated the purpose. Now, my time off recharges and gives me balance…which helps me deal with my time on, and with the energy required to stay sober.

Happy Sunday. 300-somesuch days for me. I’m heading into a year in March, so that’s where my radar is focused now. I can’t believe it, and moreover, I can’t believe I’m LOOKING FORWARD to it! I have plans, and shit to do now. There are moments (stretches of hours?) when I want to drink for break, for reprieve, for job well done. But, I check myself (again) and remember that NO, this is just a reaction, a well-worn pattern. I don’t need to drink, I say, and then, actually, do I really want to? Won’t drinking as “break” lead to me not being able to work for the next few days due to being incapacitated by a hangover? I want to get my work done more than I want (or “need”) to drink right now. And, then, it all makes sense again; the craving subsides; and I simply (automatically) do my “go to’s”–talk to my boyfriend, turn on the TV, scrounge around the kitchen, take a shower, stretch, or go to bed.

And…tomorrow arrives. One more sober moon, one more sober sun. YES.

Sitting and zoning out, or, this too shall pass

5 Oct

4:49 pm

Just sitting.

And zoning.

And eating cheese quesadillas and vanilla chocolate chip ice cream.

And not doing a whole lot of anything.

I’m baffled as to why my motivation can go from 10 to 1 in a matter of 24 hours, and does this every other 24 hours? I cycle in and out, in and out. Two steps forward, one step back. It is almost 5 pm and I’ve done a total of jack shit. (Part of my frustration is the fact that I remain in search of work, and others are searching, too, and we’re all facing the same, bigger-than-ourselves social problems that just Can’t Be Fixed by four (white) folks who aren’t from here. Sigh. I let it get to me; they seemingly don’t. And, it’s probably frustrating me a LOT more than I’m consciously aware of–which, essentially, is contributing to my feeling helpless, which always makes me want to escape with wine. I am impatient, I guess, and don’t like sitting with frustration=How’s about a glass of wine to “solve” that problem, hmmmmmmm?)

I wonder, is it that I simply don’t have a deep well to draw from anymore, when it comes to motivation, perseverance, and joie de vivre? I mean, staying sober takes a lot of that out of you, and keeps on wringing and wringing. In fact, I’ve read about studies showing that your willpower to resist temptation (drink, food) decreases the more tired out you are from other, mentally-exhausting tasks (think, you’re more apt to chow down on that Snickers if you’ve spent the day doing something mentally exhausting versus if you spent it chilling by the pool). Maybe this is part of getting older? Or, is it that I actually NEED more time off? Maybe I am (and have been, for a while) utterly burnt out, after all these years of overachieving, such that I can find neither interest nor rationale for anything whose main reward is “accomplishment” or “success?” The words ring hollow now, and I can only imagine the actual concepts banging around inside my soul like two empty milk cartons. They hold no weight.

I know I need to stop going against the grain, rest if I need to rest, sleep if I need to sleep, etc. BUT…when do I need to give myself a kick in the rear?

And, I’ve talked about this before, but sometimes I have so little energy/motivation (compared to how I used to feel, before I got sober) that I can’t even be bothered to drink! Sometimes (often?) drinking served as a way to not simply make myself feel better, or happier, or less depressed; but as a way to make myself see that I was trying to make it better. If I was drinking, at least I hadn’t totally given up, right? I was at least TRYING to make things better. I was trying to motivate myself to feel good, and that made me feel like I hadn’t completely given in to the lethargy and depression. Today, even if I wanted to drink, I really can not be bothered to pick up a bottle or even pour the glass. I know it won’t work, and I know, deep down (on day 201 today) that I can’t go back. I can’t go home again when it comes to wine.

I’ve figured out a few things lately, though, that help. One is physical activity. I’m not talking about a run, or a swim, or a walk, but all three, over a 4- or 8-hour period! I’ve often thought that if I could ONLY JUST STAY IN CONSTANT MOTION, then the urge to drink wouldn’t be so strong. This helped early on, and it’s helping me now when it comes to freelance writing: a solid bout of activity, 4 hours let’s say, helps to calm my mind, clears out all the raging thoughts, and allows me to actually sit down and work in a concentrated fashion.

Sooner or later, though, we all have to just sit with it (literally, in my case.) Sit with it when it sucks. I can do that, right? Yes, I can do that. I can have it suck and just sit with it. I have learned how to do that, and that it is much less painful than going out and drinking to avoid the sitting. What makes it easier, by far, is having someone else–a community, as it were–to sit with me! That’s where you guys come in.

For instance, I’ve realized that even IF I don’t get shit done, and I feel bad about it–like my world is crumbling, like it’s the worst thing ever–when I come here, I am reminded that it SO isn’t that bad. There was something so horrible about being hungover alone; it was better to share the burden once in a while with someone else, not that I did that a lot after my college days. Same is true of this sphere: when I come here with my problems and you sit, we sit, through them; I see that they might not be as bad as I thought. None of you are worrying, or freaking out, or telling me that my thoughts justify drinking, so…maybe they actually don’t? It’s an amazing sounding board.

So, now I feel sick. And, my sports bra is too tight. And my sciatica is acting up. And, obviously, my “illness,” which I would consider the extreme mess of thoughts that race through my head on a constant basis, is in full swing. But, I’m sitting here. With you. And we’re not reacting because there is nothing worth reacting to. Nothing to do but wait. And breathe. And know that this too shall pass. And I am still whole. And something got done, actually–I am stronger. For this, I thank you guys.

The problem with achievement

30 Aug

7:18 pm

I know I should (want to) be posting more often, but with titles like “Sigh” (yes, there’s a draft post in my list titled “Sigh”) I haven’t been able to hit send on any of my drafts, as it were.

Lately, I have to admit, I’m starting to feel like the only one who’s not really having fun at the (sober) party. I’ve also been thinking about drinking again. You know, when I get to 180 days. I’m not jones’ing for a drink, but I can’t help but wonder, Would I feel more like myself again if I inserted that habit back into my life? Would it help to orient me? More importantly, could it help boost my motivation back to some level of normalcy?

I don’t want to say that life sucks right now. For the most part, all is well, and I’m glad for all the things that I get to have by being sober: a clear head, no hangovers, never doing or saying anything destructive. OK, I got it. Good. Thank you.

What isn’t good is my lingering lack of…oomph. I just don’t feel excited about anything. Not the way I used to. The fire feels out, and I don’t know how to re-light it!

It’s hard to explain. It’s not that I don’t have work or hobbies, it’s just that I don’t really *feel* like doing any of them. The way I used to. I don’t feel any sense of achievement after doing almost everything, honestly. Yeah, yeah, it’s done. Can I go back to staring out at the water now? Maybe I don’t have the “huge” sense of accomplishment I once had because I was always hung over, and doing anything with a hangover seems like a Herculean feat. Back then, brushing my teeth felt like I climbed a mountain. And, getting through my work day? Well, I might as well have flown (with my own wings) to the moon. Now, everything I used to do just makes me feel sort of impatient and empty–is this it?

I realize that I used drinking to fill the void of not knowing how to spend my free time. I became reliant on using it when I’d feel that pull I just mentioned, feeling burnt out and “been there-done that.” However, as I was thinking about what to write for today’s post (which included a lot of procrastinating), I realized something: my addiction goes beyond the using of wine. My “core” addiction centers around not knowing how to spend my my time, period, without having something to achieve or accomplish. Which stems from an addiction to achievement.

Whenever I think and believe I haven’t accomplished much, I feel depressed. I feel sad. I feel frustrated. And, I want to drink. Wanted. Want. I want to make those feelings go away, to escape from those thoughts. I can’t just “be.” I need–and that’s the key word–to always be doing something “exciting” or “new.” I need–key word–to always be having something, or acquiring something, and in this scenario, that something is experience. I am, in essence, addicted to getting new things–knowledge, experiences, and maybe sometimes even things, but I’m much less addicted to consuming things as I am experiences. So, I drink to both ease the pain of not getting what I want, what I have come to need; and I drink to get an artificial version of that high.

This is both enlightening and saddening. While it’s good to know that wine is not the be-all, end-all of my addiction, it’s not so good to know that now, I honestly don’t know what’s healthy and what’s not. How much do I don’t do? If I was living my “old” life right now, I’d still be at work. I’d be just as unhappy there, “doing shit,” as I am now, “not doing shit.” And there, my friends, is the essence of the conundrum: there is no solution, at least no fast one, to this so-called problem. I know plenty of people who simply solve this and other existential conundrums with a drink–give it a rest, they’d say. Don’t think too hard on it. Others work harder, have more kids, get involved in others’ lives–you know, live life. My stumbling block is that these thoughts are in my head 98 percent of the time instead of the what I maybe erroneously believe is the “normal” 2 percent.

On that note, I’m not drowning and I still have (a little) hope that I’ll start to feel more excited about doing shit soon. I have found that just continuing to set daily goals and complete them helps. Ignoring the bad thoughts and feelings helps. Going for walks, doing yoga, and running or swimming helps. I have to smirk, in an ironic, God damn it, sort of way, when I think about drinking again. Even if I DID start drinking again, I know that it would not at all help me solve this problem. Other things might, like taking a trip, getting a different job, or moving (at least temporarily). But not drinking. I know too much now. DAMN IT.

Two more weeks until my 6-month mark. Woot woot. (insert sarcastic-wink emoticon here)

Slogans and quick fixes, sobriety is not

19 Aug

12:09 pm

No Motivation, The Right to Refuse to Say I’m Sorry, Turning It Off–these are titles of posts I never sent (posted) this weekend. GAH. Obvs, I haven’t been feeling that well.

But you know what? I don’t have to feel great, or feel “more like myself,” (because I feel less like myself than ever before), or be bouncing off the walls. All I have to be is sober! I can spend entire days drinking Coke Zero and weeping and holding on to my sobriety with a death grip–it all means something, and it’s all teaching me something about myself. Which is, drinking most likely simply exacerbated existing mental and emotional (are they different?) problems, not caused them. I hold a lot of rigid ideas about what I “should” and “shouldn’t” be doing, which exacerbates my stuck-ness. The best I’ve ever felt is when I said, Fuck it, and went and volunteered for a few months doing manual labor in a foreign country. All these things relate to work, which for me, relates strongly to both self-validation and creativity, which ultimately relates to mortality. Maybe I think too much and do too little?

On Saturday night, I felt the same way–out of control and volatile, emotionally–sober as I have often felt drunk. The EXACT SAME WAY. And, it scared me. It was eye-opening, too, in that, like I said, I thought that booze caused this in me; I never could have imagined let alone believed that it already existed, in a certain form. Obviously, it wasn’t as severe, but the feelings, the go-to reactions were of someone deeply not at peace. Thankfully, it’s over, and I feel better today. (I even had to “save to draft” a few emails and such because they were SO out-of-control angry.)

I tried to write (fail), I tried to read (fail), I watched “Sex and the City” the movie and “Devil Wears Prada.” I tried to go running and realized that due to PMS, my sciatica flaring was making that impossible. I cried over the fact that I am no longer…of the era, as it were; that I may have expired. My time in cold East Coast city–my ERA there–is over. “Kids” in their late 20s and early 30s now rule the roost. This is a hard fact (misinformed opinion?) to acknowledge. I downloaded some sample books to my Kindle, which made me feel a bit better, put the Coke Zero away, and somewhat successfully pressed some of those written words through the meat processor that was my brain. And then, the curtain came down, and I simply quit and went to bed.

“Quitting and going to bed” is not my style, but maybe, just maybe, it HAS to be from now on. Just like opening myself up to new career paths. A few years ago, the counselor I was seeing told me that I didn’t have to continue the pattern of workaholism in my family, which my dad, grandfather, and great-grandfather passed down to me and my brothers (I see it in all three of us now). That I could change the course of my “destiny.” She saw the pattern, of my drinking being one tool I use to protect myself from the fact that I was simply repeating what my dad had done his whole life: working himself to the bone as a way to scratch an itch, sure, but also and mostly, as a way to please and/or impress his father, and grandfather. Now, I have a choice whether to live out that same sort of life/lifestyle. I have a choice, which I can make. Do I feel ambivalent, and guilty, and afraid? Sure as fuck I do! Can I also choose to feel all these things, not drink, not work (sometimes), and go to bed anyway? Sure as fuck I can!

On that note, I am going to sign off. I’ll get to all those posts soon, although sometimes in this forum I start to feel like the wet blanket. Sobriety isn’t easy, though, and I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I hope everyone is having a great day and believe me, if you want to drink, like really really really want to? Don’t. Don’t give in! You can do this, just like little old hurting me. (If *I* can do this, anyone can!)

A new day, a new bull to…slay?

13 Aug

11:07 am

It’s a new day, and I’ve got some perspective. Still not bouncing off the walls, but grateful for all I do have.

My life right now seems to be all about wrangling with my perspective, like a cowboy (cowgirl) on a live bull. I’m the cowgirl (obvs), and the bull is my mind. Perspective is the movement, the taming, the wrangling of that bull by me.

I had an acupuncturist who once told me that she didn’t come to be a kung fu master and a rock solid presence without hard work. Day in, day out, hard mental work. Wrangling, I think she meant. I was a self-pitying, 115-pound, freezing-cold MESS when I first went to visit her, and to this day, I remember her steaming look: take responsibility. We all have to wrangle the bull.

I’m going to work today, and then take comfort in some hobbies, which include tomato plants and dogs. Enjoy the sun. Go for a swim, or a snorkel. Honor my past, and my choices. Try to read a bit of Paradise. (Toni Morrison is a genius writer, but man, it’s hard to get through her prose with a foggy brain; still, I will try.) And, hopefully, realize that I CAN do this, if I want to, sans meds.

The Dip turned into a valley, but now it’s a new day

4 Aug

11:19 am

Whew. That wasn’t fun. Talk about FOG-BRAIN. And, if I’m honest, a “perfect storm,” a “conflagration” of things that simply coalesced into one big ball of Meh.

Yesterday, after looking at the numbers in my bank accounts, I made the hard choice to “put off my dream(s)” of going back to school/going back to The City–in an effort to keep this blog anonymous, I am not mentioning which cold, big East Coast city that would be… It was a really hard choice. To sum it up, I accepted that I can’t have everything all at once, I might not want or need that “everything,” going back to school is never and should never be thought of as a magic bullet, and, perhaps then was then and now is now and re-living a situation in which I dump every penny of disposable income into simply making it work–well, been there done that and, the tradeoffs are clearer now. Plus, like my mom always says, The City will always be there.

I guess having to finally make the call induced the fog-brain. It typically doesn’t last for long, but it hurts the very same as it did when I was drinking. Absolutely nothing has changed except that I don’t get outside of it anymore, and I hate having to deal with it stone-cold sober. It scares me, and I really want to drink in the face of it. I hate waiting it out, and I hate not having any choice about that. Which, as you can imagine, is why I was telling myself that this sucks, fuck sobriety, and I should really just give up and drink.

Maybe I should check out antidepressants? Does everyone get “fog-brain?” I mean, I felt dizzy for most of the day, to the point where I could barely operate my car. I did manage, but… It’s like, all I can do is sit and stare, alternately let a few tears drop out of sadness, frustration, and meh-ness, and feel literally foggy-brained.

I have never wanted to drink SO badly in the past year, needless to say. But you know what? I sat with that shit until it passed. I counted the days left until 180 and made my plan to guzzle gallons of wine THEN. I seriously contemplated stopping off and getting a bottle or four of red, but, well, I didn’t. I can drink in six fucking short weeks, I kept telling myself. It was interesting to see my desire for wine, specifically, ramp up; I know it was irrational, as, surely wine isn’t the best or only thing that could fix this situation, right? I had this thought, but the “I want wine, wine will make it better” one was a LOT louder.

And then, something miraculous happened. I realized just how UNemotional I am, and how much I can just Get ‘Er Done in times of need. See, all this time, wine made me highly reactive and emotional–up and down, overly teary, easy to anger, and feeling all sorts of extreme emotions. Sure, I was at the point yesterday where I felt like if I went over to see my friend’s new baby, I might actually burst into tears–I’m not envious of her, I’m sad for me, and frustrated that everyone else gets their “shiny new thing,” and when is it going to be my turn? Fucked up, I know. However, beyond that, I was relatively calm.

When my boyfriend left for work, I basically sat down in a chair outside, let the tears fall for oh, about 12 minutes; wiped my eyes, sat down at my computer, and made the call. I dropped my classes, I told someone I wouldn’t be checking out an apartment, and I emailed my advisors and was like, ‘Hey, y’all, I’m not coming this year, but maybe next!’. Then, I made a list of alternate things I would do this year, including write, volunteer, and such.

Yes, I felt foggy-brained, deflated, let down, and sad for the rest of the afternoon, but two things happened that made me see just how miraculous *I* am, and how awesome the act of bouncing back can be–even and especially in the face of cravings. First, I realized how unemotional I actually am–which totally surprised me. Those tears were authentic, but they only lasted for 12 minutes. That was all I needed. I forced myself to eat a sandwich, and then I moved on with my day.

Second, later that night, when the sun finally set and I could see the literal light at the end of the tunnel, I perked up. I showered, grabbed my keys, and drove over to the bar/restaurant where my boyfriend works. He poured me a glass of cranberry juice, and voi-fucking-la, I was smiling again, laughing, chatting it up with basically everyone who stopped by the counter! I felt fine, great, like myself. It brought back memories of me, getting my drink on in days past, but…better. MUCH BETTER. I even got a whiff of someone’s shot of tequila and was like, Oof. No, thanks.

I realized that we drink, for the most part, to fix, to run, to not feel. The only reasons TO drink are illusory, and, well, excuses. For WHAT, well, that is the question we all have to ask ourselves, and which is an individual answer. I also realized that I need to learn to operate in the world, sober people or drunk people aside; and, that’s not easy, so give myself a little credit. There IS drama all around, and I DO have this sort of indignant response to it, like, Man, if you can’t fucking deal with your shit, don’t be around me. What I need is a little more perspective, a little more “live and let live” offered to others. That doesn’t however, mean I have to put up with someone who is clearly drinking alcoholically, right? Right.

Brain, time to turn you off and…go for a run/trot/walk (it is hot as blazes here, and I feel a bit ill after having consumed so much sugar yesterday in an attempt to feel better–back on the Salt Train today). Have a great day, all! And, woot woot, still sober, and approaching 20 weeks tomorrow!

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