Tag Archives: coping mechanism

Everything scares me…a little bit

10 Jul

12:57 pm

Well, we all know that I spend a good part of my day inside my head. Does that mean I, myself, am oblivious to this? No! Does that mean that I don’t believe it serves my recovery? Hell’s no! Which is why, I beg of you, to bear with me on this post; I promise, there IS a point.

Everything scares me…a little bit.

Just what I said. I have a friend coming to town this weekend, and instead of being excited (which I am), I’m nervous. She and I have never really hung out, sans booze, in any kind of “domestic” capacity. We never went over to each other’s apartments, we went to the bar! In fact, our entire friendship was based on nights out, mutual commiserating. It scares me a little bit to socialize, in general, but it also scares me to anticipate what I’m dreading might be a lot of awkward moments, pregnant pauses, and maybe even some insistence on “what the fuck happened, your life is WAY different now, WAY better!” Maybe I’m scared of holding my own in the face of my successful recovery–I’m so used to being down, I guess, that it’ll be weird to “show off” my new life. (Maybe success makes me feel uncomfortable?)

I’ve got some decisions to make soon, one of which involves biting the bullet and likely getting back into the full-time workforce, maybe going to school part-time on the side. Which will involve a LOT of people, and places, and things I’ve been avoiding as triggers since I got sober last summer.

Deep breath. I’m sure I’ll rally, and take this as it comes. One of the things that getting sober has allowed me to see about myself is that, I want to drink when I’m confronted with something that scares me. And, quite frankly, everything scares me…a little bit.

I don’t know if it’s FEAR per se; it’s more like doubt (uncertainty): Can I do this sober? Will the stress be too much?

I have to re-learn how to learn new things, I think.

Sobriety is not just about avoiding the “people, places, and things” that made you want to drink; it’s about crafting a new life, and one that includes new people, places, and things–that don’t make you want to drink. And what, pray tell, ARE these things that don’t make me want to drink? Discovering what those are is, in a nutshell, LIFE.

I mean, I used to be (am?) a science reporter, and I think aspects of that career drove me to drink. Yet, I am used to the sense of accomplishment I got from this career, and I am used to knowing how to apply this to my framework of the world. I know, though, that if I am truly committed to a “new” way of life, I have to confront the possibility that this career might be more harmful, painful, and addictive than anything else (it involves a lot of competition, a lot of ego, a lot of outside validation).

On the other hand, do I have it in me to switch careers? Do I really want to? How accurate are my projections of having the money, the time, and the focus, at 39 years old, to earn another degree? I don’t know myself that well right now, is what I’m saying. I know how “old me” would have tripped through these decisions, what framework of the universe I was working with. Now, I’m not sure what I hold most dear, what my universal laws of personal physics are! It’s like, I am learning not just new ways of coping, but new ways of learning how to cope.

Journalism is exhausting, but it’s the ultimate high. Can–and should–I relinquish this for something “less” rewarding? I could, for instance, teach, or do grant writing, or write fiction (yes!). A part of my mind–that part that is the source of some of my avoidance/addictive behavior-cries out, Nooooo, DDG! You can only do this one thing, because this one thing is what you’ve always done!

Ugh. “Alcoholism” is SUCH a mental game; I’m beginning to realize it has nothing to do with wine and everything to do with long-held “life philosophies.” Trying something new is often what caused me to drink–not because I don’t like it or I’m afraid of it, but because I believe that I’m wasting time NOT doing what I “should” be doing, what became “too hard,” what I KNOW I can win at, if “just keep trying.” Life philosophies like this are hard to even articulate let alone begin the process of overhauling.

A simpler–and more positive–way to approach this is: My work might not be healthy for me; a relationship might not be healthy for me–do I have the courage to try (to learn) something new, something different?

I had a friend whose literal life refrain was, It’s a process. And, if I can keep that in mind over the next few weeks and months, I’ll consider myself “successful.”

On a final note, you know what’s crazy? I’ve been so busy thinking about other stuff that I haven’t even checked my day count in at least a week! September 9th will be 25 weeks, so that makes today…114 days! Woot! Rock on, me, and fuck you, wolfie!

Now I chase the reprieve, not the buzz

8 Jul

11:56 am

There was a very brief period–an interlude–either around the time I quit or right before or after, where I didn’t want to drink. I mean, Didn’t Want To Drink. I mean, no idea what drinking was. It was like, I had never drunk, so I didn’t even know that there was something to turn to! It lasted for five hours, to be exact, and it was the most enlightening experience I’ve had to date with regard to cravings–they are not invariably hardwired forever into our brain circuitry.

It was like I had been transported back to my childhood, when there was nothing to do and nothing to try to do. There was nothing to think about, mull over, ruminate on; nothing to escape from, nowhere to go anyway. Life just was, and you just lived it. And it was Good. Good in the way that you don’t know it’s good: the world is round, spinning on its axis, inside the meteor belt, millions upon millions of planets and solar systems and galaxies and clusters of galaxies doing their thing. I could look up at the Milky Way (my dad was a sailor, a merchant marine to be exact, and he relished pointing out the stars) and go, Wow, and Ooh, and Aah, and these were my only thoughts. No, What am I supposed to be doing with myself? No, Arg, I don’t know, and I’m such a loser because I don’t know! No wanting to escape, to be relieved of the responsibility. For what? To be alive? To figure out the meaning of life?

I think when we stop drinking, a lot of us turn to AA. This isn’t a bad thing, but it forces us to focus on our “problem” and our “issues.” To step up and embrace our “responsibilities.” Aside from the fact that I believe in rehabilitating my relationship to (with?) wine, I’ve come to see this as one of the main reasons I stopped going to meetings. We drank, a lot of us, because we had too many responsibilities. We drank, a lot of us, because our egos had already been crushed–by ourselves!

I’ve spent so much of my time trying to “save the world” (in my head, at last)–overachieving, reaching and grasping for what can only be called validation from the outside. And, when our society (Western?) is built upon this ideal, who hasn’t been there? We are socialized to believe that we have to work hard, have kids and sacrifice, play even harder; compete, judge, and compare; self-improve; and yes, even figure out the meaning of life. Um…OK.

I grew up an introvert. I grew up the twin of an extrovert. I have always been artistic, and therefore, likely pre-wired to be self-centered, ambitious, and controlling. I have had to work not on feeling empathetic, but expressing empathy, mainly because I am shy. I have had big problems in my life with being ashamed, secretive, and self-loathing. Depression followed, but that has, I know now, alternated between being influenced by my innate character to being influenced by my choices and my reaction to those choices.

Without going into too much detail, I drank because I could not express myself, would not allow myself to express myself; I drank because it assuaged my depression; I drank because it stifled my existential panic; I drank to procrastinate being creative, which is an expression of fear (of failure, of success, who knows?). I drank because I felt excluded by my introversion, by my smarts, by my androgyny. I drank I drank I drank.

The point is, didn’t we all? Is a loathing of self inseparable from being human? Don’t we all chase a buzz–the buzz of getting what we want, of “fixing” our desire? Mine happened to be a desire to be more comfortable in my own skin. We are shy, or embarrassed–why? I have no idea where my discomfort comes from; my brother never had it. If he did, it was minimal. Maybe it’s an irrational hatred, archetypal? I don’t know.

What I guess I’m trying to say is, instead of chasing a fleeting “buzz” called my “fix” on wine, now I’m striving–chasing sounds lame–for that reprieve, that interlude of light, of fancy, of play. I REMEMBER that it exists. I remember not wanting wine, and I remember not associating wine with reward, or pleasure, or escape, or reprieve. In fact, if there is anything that I would put outside the realm of ordinary, it would be this experience. It was, I have to say, like God rained some fairy dust down on me and allowed me to see it–to remind me that once upon a time, wine wasn’t a part of my world. And, I did just fine. Can I do just fine again? Yes. YES.

Some days are better than others

23 Jun

11:16 pm

Some days just drag. I’m not bored, and I have so much to do–and be thankful for–yet, I have a pull in my gut that says, Go get some wine and make this restlessness go away! It feels like a mini-temper tantrum, and it’s related, I suppose, to not getting my way.

My writing didn’t go well today! Waaaaah! I didn’t get a run in, so missed out on my endorphin fix! SUCKS to be me, me, me, me, me!

Like today. Today. Grr. It was hot. Yesterday I ran five miles; today, I could barely peel my overheated self off the mattress before 10. I managed to do stuff–walk the dogs; start on a labor-intensive and highly aggravating personal writing project; watch the supermoon rise over the fucking ocean, for God’s sake!–but it was sort of in spite of that temper tantrum-y feeling. Normal people might just turn on the TV, but all I can do with this feeling is pace. I used to drink wine. NOPE. Now I get to sit with it, and watch it eat me from the inside out! Grr.

This weekend, I’ve been trying to begin compiling some “stories,” as it were, re: my drinking past, and man, oh, man, does it suck the life force out of me. Ugh. Yes, it was bad and I not only had to live through it, but I journaled through it. Now to rehash it again? Sometimes, enough IS enough, right? Well, if you’re a writer, it’s your job to mine the past. And, I just NEED to do this right now–call it 5th step work, call it gaining a bigger picture of how far I’ve come.

I feel like I’m not entitled to have fun, if I really dig deep. Well, maybe “entitled” is not the right word. I don’t deserve it? I can’t afford it? I spent all my “fun” money. Actually, I took out so many fun loans, it looks like I might be in fun money debt in perpetuity.

The good news? The temper tantrum goes away–maximum it lasts is a day; and if it doesn’t, there’s always that boring book to put me into a sleepy trance so I can blow this joint by becoming unconscious the natural way! And, you know what? My idea of “fun” is different these days, which helps me to accept passing the time more calmly, sans wine. I like just sitting, thinking. Staring, even. Nights spent staring at the moon, or the stars; while, yes, still leave me feeling bored, are what I need. And, I know this.

So, to my envy (I see you, wolfie, it’s YOU, I KNOW it’s you), I say: You can have your evenings out and your brunches. I’ll take my long walks alone with the (what’s now become a pack; more than two) dogs. I’ll take my afternoons reading or writing (trying to write). Lunch on my own. Silence all day, except for that sweet tune in my head–it’s in surround sound, and it’s nice.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a really boring book to get to… 😉

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!

It’s OK to not care (that much) anymore

23 May

7:46 pm

I’m here, and nothing big to report. Still got blue skies, sparkly water, green trees, and very little desire to fuck it all up by drinkin’, let alone care about the whole mess. I’m gliding, and it feels good.

FINALLY. It’s taken almost a year for my brain to repair itself; and, I really think it has, to a large extent. I’m not sure what to make of it, though, because it’s new territory. Simply put, I think I’ve just accepted that I cannot drink, for one thing. I don’t drink now, like I’m preggers or have a life-threatening illness. I can’t drink, won’t drink, don’t drink. End of story. I think I’ve not only given up (let’s just say) on feeling better, but I’ve stopped actually being 100 percent fucking CONVINCED that wine will do it for me! Which, if you look at it in a positive light, is a good thing.

Second, I don’t really have time to drink or think about drinking these days–I’ve got science and writing and travel and future plans to wrangle with, AND, I’ve started running again, so that means EITHER drinking or training, but not both (hangover + running = null set). I don’t really have the energy, either, to think about all the emotional whys and wherefores that brought me to addiction. I’m over it, and frankly, I think it’s OK to stop dwelling on it all, for now. Yup, you should say you’re sorry. Yup, you should connect your drinking to your (my) self-loathing attempts at self-sabotage. Yup, yup, yup. Let it go, though, friends. I’ve read quite a few posts lately in which peeps are running around in their heads, trying to figure it all out. It’s OK not to care about figuring it all out, for now. You can not care AND be sober. You really can!

Booze is not the problem, you (we) are. That means that other things will come up, like binge eating, or sugar, or coffee. Or, doing something instead of what you should be doing; by “should,” I mean your dharma, and we all know what it is we’re called to do, we just have to take the time to discover it. At the end of the day, only you can figure out what happens after the bottle of vodka or decanter-sized glass of wine runs out. I’ve read some posts dealing with filler addictions, replacement fixes. Look: if you can give up fucking drinking, DUDE, you can give up ANYTHING. I’m pretty sure the only thing more painful than fucking around in my head for a year, wrestling with wolfie-boy is, I don’t know, hanging from metal hooks latched into my skin? It’s a constant struggle for all of us, I’m guessing, to not cave into our other “vices” just because we don’t drink. Again, let it go. You’re doing your best. Cut back, or do one thing less than you’re doing it, or more. And, it’s OK to not give a shit about this, too!

All that matters is you’re not drinking. Everything else, if you’re a human being with a functioning mind, will fall into place…eventually. And if it doesn’t? Well, it’s OK to let that go, too.

What helps me now? Knowing full well that a “glass of wine” (haha) won’t make it better. Won’t even come close. I just KNOW THAT. Why? Because I slipped. And, I think about the scenario over and over and over and over…until it finally fucking dawns on me that wine is not really what I want. I want relief. From what, is the key question. And, thinking it through, and finding your way–like, a mental route–to that question IS sober living, whether or not you end up drinking to ease the pain. GOOD FOR YOU that you’ve arrived at that KEY question: hold it in the palm of your hand and don’t let it go, no matter how much the little jewel might burn.

I also fill my days as much as I can, and I run into the problem of feeling empty, like I have nothing inside me, like I’m just a shell of a person. And, in a sense, I am. But, I (we) are building, and filling, and creating, and being productive instead of destructive–so, move through the regret and embrace this probably common truth that we (I) are shells and start FILLING it up with stuff you like to do. Most of the time I think I don’t know what I “really really” want or like to do, but I know I like writing, and science, and I have degrees from schools, and there’s the dogs, and the boyfriend, and my cakes, and…why the FUCK am I being so hard on myself? I’m SO full, it’s ridiculous! So, even I don’t know what I mean by this “shell” thing, but again, I don’t care. For now.

Hey, I thought the other day, I can live sober. I can actually DO THIS. It ain’t that bad not drinking. What a fucking epiphany. LOL. (Hello, first 35 years of my life! Were you really THAT bad?) Even a few weeks ago, I didn’t really believe this.

The remaining immediate hurdle for me is getting over, somehow, the sense that there is nothing as awesome to look forward to as wine. Sure, I can do this and substitute that, but wine, oh, wine, there is no one but you. That goes in direct contrast to what I just wrote, about realizing that wine is NOT what I want, but hey, it’s the human brain we’re dealing with here: fucked up.

Yes, this post contains a lot of “fuck’s,” but fuck it, this is how I talk to myself sometimes. 😉

So, I’m on Day…I’m not even sure. 66. Tomorrow will be 67. Onward to 90, then 100, then…the gilt-edged 180? *glitter ball*

Self-medicating not allowed

10 May

9:25 pm

Sorry I’ve been MIA this week.

The past few days have been really shitty, I must say. And, I just haven’t felt like writing about it. However, I wanted to check in and say howdy-do, I’m here, and I’m sober. Coming up on 8 weeks again next Monday. 🙂

I don’t know if I’ve been sad, sick, drinking too much Diet Coke, or inhaling too much second-hand smoke. Whatever it is, I’ve just had a headache. Of the body (my head does feel grainy) and mind (I feel sort of hopeless in the most literal sense, as in, nothing to personally look forward to).

In having to just sit with it, wait it out; I guess I’ve figured out why I used to drink wine when I felt this way: I don’t like being sad. I don’t have TIME for it. I’m also familiar with it, and so afraid of the place it takes me (is taking me) and afraid that I’ll think myself further down. My father has been in the midst of a serious, clinical depression going on 5 years or more. I used to wonder, why can’t he just think himself out of it? Honestly, the hardest thing about the past few days has been NOT ALLOWING my mind to think itself further into the “depression,” or whatever we’re calling it. Which actually frightened me a bit, because it felt like I could, if I wasn’t careful to control the negative thoughts.

Anyway, I’ve learned a lot from the past week. One, I can no longer escape from this, or run from it, with wine. I did that for years, and it’s just not possible anymore IF I want to actually move past it. (This is going to be REALLY hard, I know. It’s why this is such a mental thing for me, a mental battle.) Two, I want to drink LESS than I want to stay sober, which means slogging through the mind-fogs like this. I know these may simply be mood swings, but they could also be NECESSARY growing pains–learning how to deal, unmedicated, with the ups and downs of life. (Though, is this really a “normal” down for most people? These feelings are gut-wrenching, mind-numbing, seemingly pointless; I’m not as much “sad” as I feel totally out of it, lethargic, reflective on past mistakes to the point of feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. As I told my boyfriend, it’s not even that I WANT to do something, it’s that I want to WANT to do something.)

But, today is better than yesterday is better than the early days of the week. I think I need a new routine, a new project, some meaty changes to bite into…which I’m working on. I did accomplish a few things this week (another editing project; a visit to a nonprofit–a few weeks longer than it “should’ve” taken me, but oh, well, it takes what it takes; a couple of important trips planned, one to a neighboring island for a few days next month–yes, I DO have my priorities straight). I already forgot about most of the negative thoughts that were clouding my mind (there were so many, and they were so confusing, that it was hard to even think them let alone hold onto them), which is exactly where they belong–outside my memory bank, in the ether. And, that thing I mentioned above, which I realized somewhere along the way in my email-reading and comment-writing: I want to be sober MORE than I want to drink; which, in essence, cancels out even the most painful cravings. (As an aside, considering that drinking the other night would have made me feel the same as I already felt–numb, sad, closed off to the world–well, it’s a no-brainer.)

Reaching out, or, I’m not the only human who has human thoughts?

4 May

9:29 pm

I had some dark thoughts today. I woke up bored, and it just spiraled down from there.

Yes, it’s possible to simply wake up bored. It was hot, I didn’t sleep well, blah blah blah. I then proceeded to sit out on the porch, contemplating just how much “life sucks.” Thoughts like, I’m ready to go, What do I have to live for?, etc.

For most of my years here, in my Human Skin on Planet Earth, I simply did not share these thoughts. Of course, I’m the ONLY person to ever have existential angst, right? And on top of it, despite all my competing thoughts, screaming at me how amazing I’ve got it right about now; I couldn’t lift my head out of the vortex.

This time, I decided to share these thoughts, hoping that it might help. (I was also thinking about drinking, starting to plan it already, and I knew that I had to do SOMETHING else.) So, I emailed Belle, one of my sober pen pals, and then I told my boyfriend about them.

“I’m ready to go.” He was like, OK. “There’s really nothing left for me to do here, in this life.” He was like, Are you going to take the dogs with you? Hmm…I had to think about that.

We all have bad days, I guess. What’s different–and a relief–is that I chose to reach out and share. Even though I was pretty ashamed of these thoughts; as in, what’s wrong with me that I have these thoughts, and worse, what’s even more wrong with me that I can’t control these thoughts, usher them out, and think more positively? I tried to meditate, and that did help a bit.

The afternoon progressed better, though. We went for a longass snorkel at a very local (read: backyard) beach, and then I went to the store and got a bunch of stuff for my upcoming master cleanse (I’ll get to that in a different post). On the errands front, I booked a trip back to that cold east coast city I came from (to investigate that new graduate program I mentioned), took care of my IRA (finally), and…well, you get the point. Moving forward.

I still don’t feel 100 percent awesome right now, but I think that has a lot to do with my master cleanse “prep,” which I may or may not go through with. In this depressed state of mind, I’m not looking forward to staying sober, I have to admit, but onward, fair Unicorn with Sparkly Teeth–to 7 weeks this coming Monday, then 10, then 12, then 90 days…then?

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!)

Loose ends

12 Apr

10:23 pm

I feel like my life is a bunch of loose ends right now–or, maybe one big loose end. And I can’t rush tying any of the knots.

I know, I know: healing takes time. However, it’s taken–taking?–me a good many, MANY months to, let’s just say, begin to embrace the downtime. The waiting. Sometimes it’s of my own accord, and sometimes it’s against my will.

What do I mean by this? Well, as a freelance writer, I’m either doing one of three things, I’ve found: working, procrastinating, or looking for work. None of these are fun, I have to admit, and it’s hard to embrace spending my time like this–and being acutely aware of it ALL THE TIME because I’m sober. (In fact–and don’t get me wrong, I’m usually really glad to be sober these days–it gets tiring being sober all the time; like, WHEN do I get a break?) I spend a LOT of time wondering what’s wrong with me in that my “oomph” seems to have disappeared. The rest of the time, it seems, I’m thinking about the “then what.”

I’ve been trying to figure out the “then what,” and sometimes I feel like it’s all too much and doesn’t matter anyway. No, I don’t necessarily want to drink, but that almost makes me feel worse: I must have completely given up on “making things better” if I don’t even believe for a second (OK, a minute) that wine will help! At least when I was drinkin’, I somehow equated drinking with at least TRYING to make things better. It’s a fucked up mentality, but it still sort of makes sense to me.

I know all these thoughts are just thoughts–or, better yet, thought loops–and that if I simply wait, or ignore them, they’ll go away. Or, I can watch them and think, Man, no wonder I drank, these thoughts are bullies of the first degree! Negative thoughts. They’re not any different from other people’s, I’ve realized; I’m not unique, and that’s a good thing. Yet, I still have good days and bad days when it comes to DEALING with the thoughts. On good days, I collect them all into one big folder and hit delete. Buh-bye. On bad days, well, I let them control how I feel. Which usually turns out to be bad.

I’m learning how to use better coping mechanisms, though, which is a direct result of HAVING to, due to not using wine anymore as my blanket and crutch. Crying works, but only if I allow myself to cry and then turn it off (Do I REALLY have to cry about not having published a book yet? No.). Taking a few deep breaths, putting on my shoes, and going for a run helps a LOT (actually, doing any kind of forward-moving activity helps). Drinking way too much caffeine makes it worse (duh), and well, catching myself beFORE I turn into a self-pitying mess of angst is best. Talking it out, writing it out, these help, too. Getting shit done helps, of course, but also, realizing that Rome wasn’t built in a day; sometimes, the (excruciatingly?) slow plodding is necessary, even though we don’t feel it to be satisfactory. I’d be the first to admit that I’m addicted to “doing” and to accomplishment; these are deep-seated habits, let’s just say, born out of years of being socialized to believe that achievement equals success.

Some of my coping mechanisms are better than others, of course, but the main thing I’m learning as I continue to have to confront myself and stay sober is: just sit and wait–and feel it–and the shit passes. Night turns into day, a mood turns up instead of down, and I feel one step closer to being able to actually tie up some of these loose ends. And that one step HAS to be enough. And, it is. It didn’t use to be, and I thank God(dess) for the brain’s ability to learn, and grow.

The “problem”–and this applies directly to the process of getting sober, too–is that implementing change is a step-by-step process. Sort of like a science experiment. Imagine being a researcher who spends years, a lifetime even, trying to figure something out? It’s all about incremental steps forward. And, often, that is the BEST we can hope for.

And, that was a slip, not a relapse–I hope

20 Mar

10:23 pm

OK. Back to our regularly scheduled program.

Thanks for all the supportive comments–you guys are amazing!

And, it really is quite astonishing to see just how many of us are affected so deeply by this drinking thing. I mean, a lot of my friends and family just don’t get it, don’t want to know. And yet, this is a HUGE deal for me, both drinking and now, not drinking. And, I know that I can be proud of myself, even if no one in my immediate friends circle or family really gives two shits. I KNOW it’s a big deal, and I KNOW I have every right to tear it up on my unicorn, screaming and clawing at the sky–I am THAT awesome.

Sometimes, you need to throw yourself a parade.

All I can say is, I did jot some things down yesterday afternoon, even in my groggy state, and it’s a testament to the learning that comes about when you quit your habit and embrace the often difficult journey of getting to know yourself. I recognized all these things from just one slip, which is awesome. Now it’s time to put them into practice.

1. Certain things are in the past; it’s TIME to let them go–put them away and move on. Really. No more wasting energy and/or head space revisiting events, circumstances, and emotions that are in and of the past. It’s strange with feelings, though; I do think that sometimes, these need to be expunged. Emotions are evergreen and somehow persist, as if you keep feeling them fresh, again and again, no matter how much time passes. Sage? A fire ritual, maybe?

2. I struggle with connection; I want it with people, but can’t seem to get it. I feel like I don’t really know how; maybe that’s a byproduct of being an introvert at heart. I mean, the kind of connection I desire is rather intense for some, maybe. When I start to feel really isolated, this urge to connect on a deeper level intensifies, and my conviction that it can’t be–we are each our own separate reality–looms large and oppressive.

3. It’s time to get out, people. Time to start DOING SHIT AGAIN. It’s not that I don’t live, but really, I don’t have a life, let’s face it. The only way, I realize now, to change this is to change this! I can’t scold myself for being lazy, or lacking initiative, or being afraid of people–maybe I am. However, maybe I needed to cocoon while getting sober, maybe I needed to isolate to protect myself while I licked my wounds and examined the damage. Now, however, it’s time to bust out those wings and start flying around. (Today, I had a job interview via Skype AND I went downtown to a nonprofit that I’ll hopefully end up volunteering for soon. It was fantastic, and, I hate to say it, long overdue. I felt a part of things, a creator of my life; that felt good, and is the antidote to isolating.)

4. It sucks growing up. It just does. *whine* I have made the choice–and so has my brother–to not engage anymore. He is not, and will not, be a part of my life in the same way he was, ever again. I am an adult woman, having adult conversations (albeit, ones I can’t fucking remember) with my mother, who is approaching 70. All these things and more make me feel like…grieving. Grieving for choices made, for a past that I NOW DEFINITELY HAVE. It’s a process, and I have to realize that THAT is what is going on inside, even if it feels a million miles away, buried underneath a lot of protective gear.

5. Do I have any real joy in my life? When I was hung the fuck over yesterday, I wondered. Now I know that YES, I do. However, I have to cultivate that joy–one of the simplest ways of doing that is by being sober–on a continual basis. That takes effort, and focus. Sometimes–well, often–I don’t feel like I have either!

Anyway, thanks, everyone, for letting me vent. One day I suppose I’ll have nothing left to analyze or process, but that day is likely in the distant future. So, here’s to big brains. And even bigger hearts.

RelatoCorto

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