Tag Archives: goals

I have to find out

25 Apr

10:24 pm

I’m going to post a short thing tonight, mainly because we drove to a lake in the middle of the desert today, and like every other day of living in said desert, I was completely dehydrated.  It’s not easy living here, and we are longing for life in not necessarily even the tropics again, but maybe like, somewhere above 10 percent humidity!?  Gah!  How did I get here?

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down…

I was reading something the other night, and realized, I don’t like being idle.  As a writer, I do my best when I am IMMERSED in something, whether it be a project, work, a business, a story, an adventure–whatever and wherever I am learning new things, that is what feels good.  And, frankly, sometimes feeling good is about not feeling bad anymore.

I am not good without goals, and when one (ahem, me) doesn’t have wine to distract me from my free time, my idle hands, my inertia, my fatigue or burnout–well, it just feels bad.  So doing what feels good is often a matter of immersion.  I am working on finding that new thing or things, but it’s not easy, especially when I know that I kind of need to earn money instead of work my tail off as a freelance journalist (pays in fulfillment, but not in money).  At the same time, I really just want to work at what I like, what inspires me to get out of bed in the morning–and at this point, that might not even be journalism, but it definitely won’t pay me what corporate “writing” does.  There has got to be a balance, and I think I am simply feeling tired and afraid of the chase–I know how hard it is to find a job that pays enough to actually get ahead.

I have savings, but it goes fast, and considering that our move cost a lot and continues to cost money; that my mom needs financial help–well, the making-money thing should take priority over the fulfilling-me thing.  Same time, I know I need to be immersed in something I find fun and challenging.

Hmm.  I think I just have to find out right now–find out what those other things I want to do are like, what they will truly cost financially and emotionally.  At some point, soon, I guess.  Haha.  I am not ready to dive off the board, and I feel cautious toward simply walking away from corporate work; I don’t want to see my bank account go down in the process either.  I guess I have to choose between happiness and money.  Or, is that just an illusion?

Incidentally, when I got sober, money was making me drink (I was earning money at a job I hated, and drank constantly); when I strove for happiness, I was much more centered and able to get sober, but making next to nothing!  Yet I was happy, striving for happiness!?  Again, though, I’m afraid I need more money than a job that offers me happiness can provide.  I think I just have to find out…again.

Building

8 Aug

12:25 pm

So, I got a full-time job.  After three-and-a-half years.  I should be happy, since this has been in the works for almost a year (yeah, a full year of soul searching, job searching, and networking).  Why do I feel like my sober bubble is about to burst?  Or, like I’m about to jump off my sober cliff–and into what?  Free fall?

Actually, I ventured into the real world of real people and tens of millions of stressful triggers last year, and have continued to branch out in 2014 and 2015.  This year, I’ve decided, is going to be–has been–all about continuing to build off of what I created last year.  I’ve been working nearly non-stop this spring as a barista and freelance journalist, but the writing (no pun intended!) is definitely on the wall:  it’s an unsustainable (and physically exhausting) way to earn a living.  So, I found a full-time gig doing what I was doing (and what, from an outside perspective, drove me to become Drunky Drunk Girl) in the place I was doing it (albeit, much farther south, and therefore, not really in the same place).  And, while I have re-entered the world already, and managed just fine, this is still a huge transition.  I’ve created so much here that is SO different from my old life–and hence, my old drinking self–can I pull it off and continue to build on what I’ve done here, there?  We’ll see, is about all I’ve got.

What no one told me about sobriety is that I would miss the early days of my “sobriety cocoon.”  And that I would sort of live OFF of it, like a spider consuming whatever it’s caught and wrapped up in its silken web.  And that maybe that wasn’t a good idea, to nurse my sobriety cocoon like a bottle, but that’s what I did.  That’s what I did…until it got old, boring, until I saw that I really needed to venture out, to forage again for real sustenance.  It was my pink cloud of endless awesome–a hermetic existence that made it possible for me to exist, almost child-like, in newfound wonder.  It helped that I quit Corporate America, started my own business, and moved somewhere totally exotic.  It helped that I had a sober support network that allowed me to work less and think/ponder/analyze every gory detail of my sober journey.  I needed that.  I really, really needed that.  And, as it turns out, so did many of my readers.

It’s not that I’m no longer grateful to be sober–I am, and more and more every day.  The other morning, someone I worked with showed up to barista with a supreme hangover, complete with the 30 texts sent to the boy she’s currently fixated on, the other 20 calls to him and random friends, and the falling-down, bruises-from-out-of-nowhere drunkenness that lasted until her shift started (with me) at 5:30 am.  Oof, was mostly what I thought.  But also, eh, who cares?  What can I do for her?  And then, probing deeper, a desire on my part to turn away and FORGET that I was there, not too long ago.  A desire so intense to completely just forget, let it go, move on, NOT remember that I was there, not too long ago.

This desire I have to say, Fuck this sobriety bullshit, and move on, is strong right now, has been for a while (hence, the lack of blog posts).  But, another part of me–the one that became a drunk, and the one that had the need to write this blog–can’t help but wonder, is it OK for me to do that?  To let it go?  It’s not that I can’t empathize, it’s been too long; it’s that, I can, and I just don’t want to.

But I have to.  And, I don’t think it has anything to do with wanting to be nice to people or do the right thing–those two things are givens.  It’s that I’m still there.  I’m still there, in a way.

The longer I’m sober, the more I realize that I can’t just shove this “sobriety bullshit” into a box under the bed and wipe my hands of it.  It’s there, this “alcoholism” thing, and it’s not going anywhere.  I’m not “once a drunk, always a drunk,” though–like, the long-term effects of physiological dependence elude me to this day (in other words, who the fuck knows?  Wine no longer works for me, but maybe someone else with three years might have a glass and not feel dizzy, confused, and flat?).  What I am is STILL insecure, and STILL grappling with questions that truly have no answers.  I guess I’m learning to live in and with that insecurity, that instability, that uncertainty, that moving-sands, that lack-of-answers.  Those questions of self, of purpose, of existence–they’re still there, and they’re still somehow related to why I drank copious amounts of wine for a decade.

And, the fact remains that everyone has to cope with what this is, which is LIFE.  And these people did not also become drunks. Hmmm…

The difference between early and later sobriety is this:  ya have to live in the drinking world as a sober person, and you have to embrace the fact that it’s NEVER going to go away.  Your past, that is.  And, it shouldn’t.  The fact that you DID do all that shit, and you DID drink the way you drank.  The fact that your alcoholic drinking unfortunately has NOTHING to do with alcohol (would that it did!?).  Really–very, very little.  Sure, it was fun and you got buzzed and you got addicted because it helped you cope, but, in the end, the bigger motivations hovered dead-center around self-esteem, trauma, perfectionism.  We know this.  You know this.  So, forgetting about your drinking is like forgetting about the present-day issues that still linger.  You can’t, if you want to keep growing and keep healing–and frankly, keep helping others who are still stuck in addictive behavior.

The longer I’m sober, the more I see JUST how long healing takes.  Recovery.  I’m still recovering:  lost income, lost relationships, lost confidence.  I’m catching up, and I’m building.  I’m beyond satisfied that I got to spend most of my initial sobriety in a tropical paradise, literally recovering in isolation.  It was what allowed me to have the patience to dissect my process–and the faith to see a labor-intensive start to a freelance writing business through a nasty 18-month bout of PAWS (no motivation, will I ever WANT to work again?).

Have there have been many times these past 12 months where I just wanted to put the sober thing in a box, shove it under the bed, and say, Ugh, I’m done with this?  YES.  To say, let’s MOVE the fuck ON?  YES.  However, the reality is, I drank alcoholically–for reasons that I’m not quite sure I’ll ever truly pin down, define, or exorcise.  And that alcoholic-ness is what lies at the root of simple behavioral reactions that still trip me up in my day-to-day life!

I’ve made SO much headway this year and the last, in forging ahead, getting back into the workforce, and interacting with “normal” people in the real, non-sober world.  Now, the big test awaits:  can I somewhat seamlessly go back to doing what I was doing (albeit with a strong foothold remaining in the world of freelance journalism)?  I’d say yes, but I’ll also say, I’m nervous.  I’m wondering.  What will be?  What will happen?  Am I leaving my greatest creation behind, this “new me” that I’ve spent three years building?  Or, does she come with me now, wherever I go, and whatever I do?  All I can say to myself is, hold onto your heart, which happens to resemble (or even be) journalism.  It saved me once, twice, and will save me again.  It’s part of my sense of purpose and creative agency (and urgency)–the lack of which are my biggest triggers.  These things I know, so I’m hoping that knowing this, and having practiced this for so long now, will carry me through the next six months…

I’ll keep you posted!

(And, it’s good to be back!  Thanks for reading, friends.)

I’m back…I think

20 Jul

12:05 pm

Hi!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks everyone for checking in, and onward we go!

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

300 days, and it’s getting better

13 Jan

12:42 pm

Well, here we are! Well, were, since 300 days came and went. And, to be honest, it was a day like every other: some ups, some downs, but mainly just stressed about finding money! I don’t know…it was just there.

When I think about how I spent my day, I really have to take a step back and say, Wow, that’s remarkably better than how you were spending your Sunday’s just a few years ago. Yesterday, I got up at the usual time, 10, which was fine. Early enough to have some morning left. I did some chores, took the dogs for a long walk, spent about 45 minutes chatting with my landlord/neighbor/friend, catching up on her holidays and future plans–a really good way to make myself feel more of a part of “things.” I came home, made some lunch (a spinach salad with some basalmic-oil dressing and some pasta), and then, followed up on yesterday morning’s yoga class by trying to replicate it on my own mat. Afterward, I meditated/dozed off on the mat, until about 2. I spent the afternoon trying to boost my mood to get myself to “do shit,” but I just couldn’t find the energy. My boyfriend came home from work, and we/I spent the evening walking the dogs along the back hills, grocery shopping, making dinner, talking to my mother for about an hour (I really need to call her more so that our conversations can be shorter!), and then, “binging” on our Netflix show du jour (Dexter).

I also made sure my dog got her meds in the morning and evening–she’s on doxycycline for tick fever, and she was prescribed a shit-ton of pills (a whole month’s worth, so four a day!).

Why so much detail? Well, if I was drunk/hung over, my day would NOT have included anything related to self-care or care of others/animals. It would have resembled what is unfortunately familiar to all of you: in bed until 3 pm, feeling sick, confused, and panicky, looking through my texts and email to figure out what I might have done or said last night; finally heaving myself out of bed long enough to make ramen and tea, eat that, and then pathetically slump back into my bed, feeling still drunk. I might have gotten up by 5 or 6 pm, as the light was leaving the sky, to get some air, walking a short few blocks up and down the city streets, alone. I probably would have called my mother, and then it’d be about 8 pm. Since I have no dogs to take care of in this scenario (no plants either), no boyfriend to share anything with, and no story pitching to worry about–because I have no freelance business–I’d probably go out to the corner store, buy a bottle of red, and drink that down while binging on a random assortment of Netflix shows (Intervention, Breaking Bad, or Lost were some of my favorites when I was hung over–sad, in a way, except for Lost, which I never quite remembered because I was drunk). Of course, the red would be making me feel at ease, and mainly, helping me to forget my hangover, another wasted day, and the dreadful feeling that I am missing out on SO much.

It’s the little things…but I can’t tell you how they really do add up to one HUGE thing. Like, the fact that it’s just normal now for me, expected that I wake up before 10, to take care of my dogs, to give my girl her meds on time, every day. The fact that it’s a given that I’ll have the desire to prioritize yoga, meditation, and a spinach salad on my day off–and not wine wine wine wine wine. The fact that I have someone to share my day with–that I’m not afraid of intimacy anymore (I was terrified of it, and everything that came with it, when I was drinking–it’s one reason I drank, to both avoid it and hide from my fear of it). The fact that I’m able to talk to my neighbors, that I have an outlet for feeling alone–that I see that others need me as much as I need them, that this is how it works, building community from the inside out. I don’t have to walk around alone in a cold city; I get to do it with someone else, among trees and sun.

I get to choose all this, and I get to choose to approach it with a positive outlook (that often means just ignoring the negative thoughts, the stress, the anticipation of the worst). And, I am aware of all of this, and of how good all of it is, and of how much better it is with this choice. It doesn’t always feel good–I have doubts and anxiety all the time–but it is better, that’s the truth. I look back and think, I may not have known I was dependent on wine, but I knew (believed) that I didn’t have a choice–especially when it came to the negative self-talk about how much my life sucked/how much more I wanted out of life that I didn’t have, which inevitably led to me drinking my nights away, one by one. And then, entire weekends. And sometimes, entire weeks (toward the end, I spent a few ENTIRE WEEKS drunk around the clock=yikes).

So, yeah. I don’t want to overemphasize the negative, but this post is just to say, it creeps up on you, the GOOD, and the BETTER that everyone (at meetings) bangs on about when it comes to getting sober. Sure, you sober up–there are a lot of realities I am facing now, and most of the time, reality comes with fear (whether that reality is actually anxiety-producing outside of my overreacting mind, I am not sure). But, you also GET. You get a lot. And most of it is in small changes, incremental ones that build upon one another until one day you wake up and you’re like, OK, wow, so I might want that glass of red, but honestly, I really can’t see going back to giving up all this–I can see it now, I have it now–in exchange for the “buzz” of alcohol.

As Dan Savage says, it gets better. Sometimes, getting better doesn’t mean what we want/think it should mean, though. Getting better is more complex than just feeling better–isn’t that what we tried to do when we were drinking, feel better? We never GOT better, though.

And, I guess I’ll fix my counter to 365 days on March…18th?

Just say YES

31 Dec

5:08 pm

Just say yes.

That’s my “theme” for 2014. Well, that seems to be what it’s going toward–and, it just came to me against my will, so, hell, why not? Just say yes.

After some tough face-to-face realizations over Christmas–some of which made me feel uncomfortable for reasons beyond which I could elucidate–I’ve come to see what about getting sober has become counterproductive, for me anyway.

Here’s what: I feel like since getting sober, I’ve reined myself in so tight, closed my boundaries so much, that I have a hard time anymore saying yes. Stopping thinking and just doing. Opening myself up. Loosening those boundaries.

I’ve come to see that when we first get sober, it’s all about saying no. And necessarily so: No, I can’t drink. No, I can’t drink. No, I can’t drink. No, I can’t do this, that, or the other–because it might make me want to drink again, or, it MADE me want to drink again. No, I can’t go there, or see him, or talk to those people. No, I better not take that job, or run that race, or tax myself in any way beyond what I believe myself–weak and vulnerable, because this quitting drinking shit is fucking hard–to be capable. I better just stay here, small, enclosed, tight. Saying no. All the time.

To the point where you don’t realize just how much you’re over-thinking things and as a consequence, limiting yourself. I don’t think I’ve ever been as up in my head as I have been getting sober, wondering about every choice, overanalyzing every step I take. It’s as if getting sober has resulted in a spotlight on my forehead, a strobe going ’round and ’round and ’round, illuminating every thought, action, and reaction. I don’t just go or be or do anymore; life has come to carry so much WEIGHT.

Now, everyone’s journey is different. My “bottom” was low–it was the end of the business-as-usual way that I drank–so, I don’t think I can refuse the sober momentum that is building inside me. A certain order has been cast on my innards, almost as if the moral code of my Universe has melted and re-solidified as something else. So, I’ll keep going with what’s been working–moving toward “yes,” is how it feels. I can’t go back, and that’s OK, I guess.

However, I wasn’t necessarily using wine to get out of bed, or, to basically live. I lived my life, and my life was working in spite of my hangovers and stupid drunken shenanigans. My relationships suffered, yes, and my job, too. I had the distinct sense, though, that I wasn’t “not doing,” you know?

Sobriety seems to have made me less willing to do stuff–in order to protect myself from myself, I guess. And, I think, taking a step back/a time-out is necessary to heal. It was for me. Now, though, I feel like it’s time to move forward. It’s time to stop “being in recovery” and start “being recovered.” Time to say, well, yes. Yes, I can probably do this sober; yes, I’m ready to…just say yes.

Say yes to a new job search.
Say yes to a move.
Say yes to having kids–or yes to trying.
Say yes to saying NO to the guilt of not having kids–or the guilt of an abortion.
Say yes to saying NO to a career in journalism, if that’s what I truly want.
Say yes to a new career outside of my head, maybe yes to school for this new career.
Say yes to exploring different healing methodologies for my back pain–maybe even the Western ones.
Say yes to trips.
Say yes to exploring my sexuality further.
Say yes to saying NO to thinking about how things relate to my sobriety or not–chances are, they do, but who cares? Enough is enough–say yes to this.
Say yes to getting my energy up every day, and being more of a firecracker and less of deadbeat–even if my neurotic mind says no because I’m afraid of threatening or alienating others who are less energetic.
Say yes to saying NO to Facebook!
Say yes to the people around me, and yes to not trivializing them by wondering what people in my computer are doing.
Say yes to saying no to comparing myself to others–and that includes knowing what everyone is doing all the time in favor of what I’m doing!
Say yes to what I’m doing as being good enough, engaging enough, valuable enough.

You get the point.

I don’t know, just say yes. What’s the worst that could happen? I could be afraid of the outcome; I could pretend there is no outcome, or that it doesn’t matter; I could pretend there is no fear in me. Or, if I can’t ignore the fear, the projections into some nonexistent future, I can say yes anyway.

Just say yes.

Baby steps, or faith in…? Something, at least

10 Oct

10:43 pm

And, sound the trumpets! I pitched my first “real” science story today. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I’m hoping anyway.

For some reason, I’ve stopped worrying about money this week–the making of it, I mean–and have had a surge of story ideas. The kind of surge I used to have, back when my brain was working, fluid, and open to anything and everything being a possible “story.” I had forgotten about the “fun” part of this job because I’d been so busy killing any and every idea I had before I even gave it a chance. Ideas, any and all, plus the ability to pitch them and then, not care if you’re rejected–that’s the heart of this profession. It’s been a while, as you know.

Drinking. Man. Drinking. What good is it? It fucks with your motivation, your reward system. It messes with your ability to learn. It ruins your powers of concentration, of focus. It zaps your energy, so you feel lacking in determination, in initiative. That “oomph” that I thought was gone for good? That I was SO SURE was never coming back, months and months into my sobriety? It is slowly but surely coming back.

And so is the reality of work. Of sitting down and reading and researching–for hours, days if need be–to at least tease out an idea enough to be able to say, this is (or is not) a story idea that I could research and pitch. Did I not know this was part of a journalist’s job? Sure, I did, but I guess I “forgot.” Conveniently, when it was much easier to drink wine than it was to follow through on any of my ideas with sustained effort. Did I just spend too much time at the recovery fair, so to speak (Joan Didion reference!), that I lost sight of the fact that I am not exempt from hard work? From actual effort? Did I expect it to be handed to me, or was that the byproduct of all the thought-wrangling involved in quitting drinking? Because I’ve spent SO much time figuring out this sobriety thing, don’t I deserve everything else to be easy from here on out? NOT.

I don’t know. But it’s coming back and it feels damn good. Good to actually WANT something again. Friends, it’s been SO long, and I’ve been feeling my way through the dark, existing on hope and dare I say, faith. Faith, yes. Faith that somehow, this shit would improve. Somehow, I would mine an ounce of authentic (as in, not forced) motivation and interest. I’ve been reading lots of science magazines and combing through scientific articles this week, not only being interested, but remaining interested after hours of work. Who is this new person? (I have to say, the sciatica has subsided a lot lately, and that is a huge relief; I really don’t acknowledge just how much my back pain has interfered with my life, do I? Of course, I don’t; this alcoholic loves to think she is supposed to be in pain all day, pretending that it’s not affecting her mood and focus. Sigh.)

I also seem to have some distance now, in the form of a MUCH more solid foundation of self-appraisal as well as perspective on what it means to “succeed” and “fail” in this business–and to take little of it that seriously. To have some fun with this. And, to learn to see when I’m becoming too tunnel-visioned and say, OK, deep breath, it’s not that big of a deal, take a break, think about something else. There’s just…balance here now, in my life. I never had any sort of “balance.” I’d heard a LOT of people talk and read and write about that elusive “balance,” but I could never pin it down and define it for myself.

So, maybe this post is about balance. And baby steps. Being OK with the baby steps, taking them even when I’m afraid or am CONVINCED that they’re too small/going to lead to nowhere fast.

This morning, I was thinking about how things have changed since this time last year. I sat down at my computer and noticed the line of folders stacked up along the left side of my screen–all of them are personal projects. I’ve had so many ideas for so long, but none of my personal writing projects ever got started, let alone worked on enough to even be labeled a project worthy of its own folder on my computer. I drank away my time, out of fear–fear which is with me even as we speak–how on Earth could I ever make any of these things happen?

Now? Lo and behold, I have projects. Some just begun, others being quietly plugged away at. And, I’ve realized that this “getting projects started” thing is very similar to quitting drinking. It’s baby steps, little by little, and it hurts and it feels awkward and painful and “I just can’t do this shit…” And then, you’re doing this shit, and it stops being shit and starts being something that you’re doing, that you CAN do and you WANT to do. For example, freelance writing: initially, for me, lots of blunders, lots of fear. But, every day, that fear goes away, I pitch more, my projects are slowly but surely increasing; the fear of being “found out” for the alcoholic fraud that I am (think I am) is going away. I am no longer a fraud; I am no longer hiding behind a bottle of wine (or inside one, more like it). I am doing the shit now, and the car keeps rolling down the hill. I’ve realized in all this healing and navel-gazing that “failing” is part of the process of moving forward. Failure is not the end. Failure is a node, and things happen at nodes.

I want to be where things are happening.

More days, is what’s next

29 Sep

11:45 am

Well, I’ve had two weeks to sort of “toy” with the idea (just an idea) of drinking again. Starting drinking again. Whatever that means, I’m not even sure. And…

I’ve decided that since it’s just right there, I’ll set my next immediate goal at 200 days (which is this coming Friday). Then, on October 12th–a mere week later–I’ll celebrate my “year soberversary,” which is in quotes because since last October 12th, I’ve missed ONE day, right in between at 6 months. So, there will be treats–more treats this time, less excuses for not allowing myself real treats–on those two days. And a mini-parade. With some glitter balls thrown in for good measure.

And then…I’ll set my goal for another 100 days! That’ll take me to what seems like a nice, even, good-sounding number: 300. This will be on January 12th, 2014. That’s the goal, 300 days.

(From there, it’s really easy to see that 365–a true year sans The Grape–is right around the corner, but, I’ll re-assess when I get to 300.)

Why all the planning and days-counting? Well, it helps. It really does. For me, sometime around my 6-month mark (the first time around), I began to see sobriety as less like a lack of drinking and more like a window of time during which I could get shit done, achieve some goals. I could sit back, take a deep breath, and not feel pressured, rushed, or anxious. It was a weird shift, feeling like I could actually rest EASY knowing that I didn’t have to drink, that I would be able to focus on other things besides drinking and not drinking.

So, that’s how this feels now. Once I get to October 12th, it’ll simply be another 100 days where I have “off” from thinking about drinking and “on” for doing my thing–plugging away, moving forward, achieving some new directions.

I start a new job tomorrow. Baker’s assistant. We’ll see. It pays minimum wage, but it’s enough that if I do that AND keep writing on the side, I can easily cover my bills down here. It’s a start, I guess. Back to the “real world.”

As I’ve said in a few previous posts, lately I’ve realized that for whatever reasons, I lost confidence in getting sober. By taking myself out of the game in order to heal, I also isolated. (And, for this reason, I sort of feel a general sense of bitterness toward sobriety, like it’s a bad parent.) Now, though, I feel like my voice is coming back, my ability and desire to use it. My presence. A sense of direction, of goal-oriented-ness.

Sure, I’ve still got a thin skin and worry about everything, let’s face it; but, that old, caution-to-the-wind, “warrior-ness” that I carried around for years is coming back. It almost did me in, carrying myself like that, so this “new me” will be a balancing act: how much to care, and strive, and achieve, and feed my hungry ego (yes, it still cries itself to sleep every night); and how much to just be and do, to let it all go and embrace a softer, gentler, less achievement-focused way of living. I still long for structure, in a way; for those 60-hour work weeks. I think my real addiction might be work, but that’s for another post.

Anyway, today’s a work day. And up most immediately? Calling my dad–it’s a difficult conversation with him; he continues to be depressed, and I have to tell him we’re not coming to visit this fall–and my brother. Gulp. My brother and I haven’t spoken for almost a year. I’m honestly not sure if he’s still holding a grudge from “the New Year’s Eve incident,” when I blacked out and screamed bloody murder at him and his (crazy) girlfriend. That was not this past year, but the year before–two years ago. I’ve been more than a little ticked off that they dragged it out this long–I tried, and tried, and tried saying I was sorry, and I ended up closing my door, so to speak. Now, I’m ready to open it, I guess; to welcome their forgiveness (if that is what it is) and–I hate to put it this way but it’s how I feel–forgive them for not forgiving me. Wish me luck.

Then, maybe some personal writing. Another exercise in patience. At least I have time–because I’m SOBER. And no hangover to make a waste of me today–because I’m SOBER. And a growing sense of “can do”-ness–you know the drill. And, a momentum, doing what needs to be done–you know why. A sense of calm, of peace, of lack of regret, of self-reliance and self-constancy–is that even a word? Self-constancy. Like, as long and wide as a desert; I am here, constant in myself. I like having this SO much that it almost brings tears to my eyes.

Happy Sunday, everyone.

What’s next?

27 Sep

11:03 am

Damn it, I KNOW what’s next.

Keep not drinking. (It’s interesting that I choose those words, and not, Stay sober. There’s something about “not drinking” and “keeping on doing it” that rings truer for me. It’s more like it’s my choice, and it’s getting me–actively taking me–to a different place.)

I’ve been at it for almost 16 months. I fell off a few times early on, and this October 12th, I’ll have 365 days–minus one, about mid-way through–sober. I am officially 180-some days sober today, so what’s next? And, the bigger picture is always, Why stay sober?

My biggest reason is that I’m finally over the obsessing. And, I have to say, it took me freaking long enough. Geez. Over a year, I’d say. I don’t want to go back there. I still have days when I want to drink, when I pout and blame sobriety for “taking me away from me,” for stealing my enthusiasm. However, I know, deep down, that these are just thoughts, irrational ones at best, and the real, true-me thoughts are soon to emerge. I’m curious to see what’s next?

Another thing, sobriety has forced me–is still often forcing me–to keep moving forward. Really, I have no other option! I can’t drink, so…I have to do. To act. Even if most of those actions have seemed to me to be miniscule, tiny, baby steps at best–at least I’m taking them and not falling backward. That is the main reason I’ve continued to not drink. I see myself moving forward, day by day. It’s a great feeling, and probably what constitutes most of what we see as “momentum” after the early days of cravings and the all-consuming thoughts of drinking and why we drank.

It’s also become a habit, to not drink, and I know that if I allow myself to go back to the “Oh, I can fix this with wine” mentality, it’s really hard to extract myself from that mud. It’s like mental quicksand, and it takes you down fast. I’ve experienced it, so my deal with myself is, When you get to place where you honestly believe that you can take it or leave it, only then can you drink. And, honestly, I’m not there yet. I don’t think I could just drink and not care, drink two or three (ooh, there’s a hangover already) and leave it. And, I’m not sure I’ll ever be there. That’s OK, though. I’ve accepted that, and I’ve accepted the patience that must counter the frustration of not knowing, and of not feeling settled with this “inability” to control things. It just IS for now, and that has to be OK, right?

Things are rolling forward. Whether or not you know or see it, you, too, are moving forward simply by the act of not drinking when you want to.

I’m curious. I want to see what it’s like out there, in Sobersville, at let’s say, a year. Will it really be all that different? I can say with certainty that things really changed about two months ago (14 months into it, almost 6 months sober time, for the second time). I suddenly stopped obsessing. The urge left me, I guess. I mean, I do still have cravings, but they’re always ushered out within a matter of seconds. I think, Ooh, a glass of… NOPE, no can do, DDG. There are the memories, the work I’ve put in, the stark futility of watching my friends stay stuck and drink to “ease their burdens,” and stay stuck and drink, and stay stuck and drink. Then, there are the hangovers. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, another hangover might kill me.

I am thankful for these rush of thoughts, but when I look more closely, I find a calm little clearing inside myself, which keeps growing with each passing sober day, and which I do not want disturbed. I worked really hard to clear this sunny, isolated patch, you know? I’m too tired to even consider letting it grow over, or worse, abandoning it for the noisy lake down the hill where all the drunken teenagers are hanging out, talking shit and staying stuck. Seriously, though, it’s where I’m resting, and frankly, I’d rather not revisit the decision as to whether or not to drink–and invite all that chaos back into my life–again. For now, this feels easier.

So, yeah. While I’m not thinking of drinking, I’m also not counting days anymore. But I think I should set a new goal, lest Wolfie-boy take note and perk his ears. What should it be? 365 sounds too long. Maybe an even 300?

And, here’s some excellent advice from Belle:

I got to 100 days then thought, ok 6 months. then once I got to six months I just sort of waited. and then once I was at 8.5 months I could see a year within reach, and then I just coasted to a year. momentum and fear of regret and just being generally pleased with life was enough for me. enough for me to want to see what happens next …

All quiet on the western (well, equatorial) front

19 Sep

10:54 pm

Whew. Busy week. We got back from our trip (we went to Disney World!), and I just spent the past few days working on two projects. Lo and behold, I submitted my first (well, except for that piece I wrote for The Fix, which sadly shut down) “serious” freelance piece!

She’s baaaaaack…!

It really did feel like getting back on the bike. You know, the one I crashed in a blackout and left on the side of the road a couple years ago. It was still there in the ditch, a bit rusty, waiting for me to hoist myself back into the seat. I’m surprised I found it; then again, I’ve learned to start giving myself more credit. (At the very least, I did what I set out to do, and I can “officially” call myself a freelance journalist.)

And, my 180 days came and went. I barely noticed it, to be honest. There was NO WAY I was giving myself the option of getting drunk within a thousand miles of my boyfriend’s parents. And, truth be told, these days I’m not thinking of “when can I drink again” without having an entire ARMY of thoughts rationalizing myself out of it.

180 days. I’m still here. I’m still not drinking. I’m still not really having the time to revisit what has become, in my mind, much more of a practical necessity than some profound lifestyle choice.

Or is it? Profound, that is?

Things are normalizing. Which, I guess, is why the “profundity” of the sober lifestyle is being lost a little bit on me. Like, I find myself getting annoyed whenever I think or talk or read or write about not drinking. Am I still sick, or can I believe that I’m healed? I feel like things are getting back to normal. I really feel it to be true. The “normal” before I got sucked into the drinking vortex–the obsession, then the need to drink in order to get excited about doing just about anything.

Yes, being sober is GOOD, but, well, good like a grilled cheese sandwich is good on any continent and in any language. What I’m saying is, I remember not drinking as being normal, and this, this sober thing is simply the new normal. Not profound, not really a big deal. Just my new normal.

A hard-won new normal, that is.

I’ve already told you that I believe “alcoholism” is a mental *disorder*–this implies, of course, that I also believe that I can take away the “dis” and be left with the “order”. In the real world, I’m not so sure how this will pan out. I feel like I could drink and not go overboard, but…feelings aren’t facts! I sort of believe that I could probably stop after two glasses, but I’m definitely not sure I would want to. Would I throw caution to the wind and get shitfaced, with all the resulting drama that comes with blacking out? Or, would I be able to “control” that urge? Or, would that urge simply not be there, and I’d realize after two glasses that I’m drunk and I “should” stop?

Technically speaking, I could drink. I have my own permission, in a sense. I made it to 180 days, which was my goal. Healed or no, I can technically drink. The past few times when I actually had a craving–and, let me say, I never imagined that they would subside to almost nothing, but my cravings pretty much don’t exist the way they used to–I dismissed it. I thought, Eh, I don’t want to feel drunk. I don’t want to feel that wave of acid rush down my stomach. I don’t really have a reason to drink–I don’t need to drink, so why bother? I’m happy without the booze, how would it make things better? Like, I actually THOUGHT THESE THINGS.

Granted, I’ve been at this for a little over 15 months. Still, it’s almost like I don’t have the energy to drink. Or, I don’t want to blow it, and I could, I guess, if I drank. Even if I didn’t get that drunk, it might put me back a day, or two; or, I’d feel guilty, or like I’d lost momentum/self-reliance. Sobriety guarantees certain outcomes, like, waking up and being able to try to get work done/get work done. I’m making incremental steps forward in the freelancing, and this is good. I wish I was doing more, and going faster, but lately I’ve realized that for whatever reason, I have to take things slow. And that includes work. Baby steps, and don’t overdo it, and turn it off at a certain hour–these, along with not drinking, are my new normal.

I also am beginning to enjoy working to live instead of living to work. On the other hand, my energy is coming back, SLOWLY but surely, and I’m actually looking forward to getting out more, picking up some part-time volunteer work, trying (at least one) new things that don’t involve what I’ve always done (intellectual reading/writing-oriented work). These are my goals, specific to me and my own personal neuroses. Just like my drinking “triggers” are specific to me. It’s dawned on me once again just how personal a sober journey can be.

I know that most people outside of this sobersphere (and AA) simply don’t GET the significance of getting sober. Of choosing a sober lifestyle. And, eventually, I might forget why I’m doing this. Every day so far since I quit, though, I wake up and look at my life through my sober glasses–maybe I’m not doing this or that because I got sober, but I’m definitely doing it with more purpose and more gratitude. So, we cling to it, this sober lifestyle choice, and celebrate it, and throw unicorn parades with our glitter balls and sober cars. Because it works!

It’s working! Something has clicked, has shifted. Maybe it’s simply the cravings fucking-finally-god-DAMN-it subsiding, maybe it’s me becoming my “old” self, maybe it’s me accepting my “new” self? Whatever it is, it’s working!

And that, my friends, is why it’s all quiet on the equatorial front.

I can imagine myself setting a new goal, another 180 days–we’ll see. I’m not thinking about drinking, things are quiet, and I have a lot of work to do. If the next six months are like the past six months, they’re going to blaze by, me in the saddle trying to hold onto my to-do list as the wind rips it to shreds!

Life is too sweet to be bitter

25 Jul

4:52 pm

I came across a story today that about Kris Carr, and it totally inspired me. Here’s her final quote of the piece:

I think that life is just too sweet to be bitter. Once I was able to change my focus, desperation led to inspiration. I made so many changes, and I thought: This is an awesome life. I mean, honestly, I don’t think anyone has a better life than me. How can you live with the knowledge of cancer? I might not ever be able to get rid of it, but I can’t let that ruin my life. . . . I think: Just go for it. Life is a terminal condition. We’re all going to die. Cancer patients just have more information, but we all, in some ways, wait for permission to live.

For many reasons, this struck me as relevant to sobriety. It strikes at the core of what we avoid as drinkers: we wait for permission to live, we live in fear, we don’t just Go For It. Once we change our focus, we can go from desperate to not drink to inspired to live life.

Today, I’m reconfirming my commitment to running more, embracing the challenge of developing balance in my life, and giving up (trying to) the Diet Coke. If there are small things I can do (juicing might come soon, why not?), then let’s DO THIS.

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