Tag Archives: healing

Into every life a little PAWS will fall

5 Jan

12:29 pm

I was going to post on something that I mentioned to Lilly the other day–how we have to remember that we’re addicted not just to booze, but to the “idea” of what booze gives us, does for us, makes us; and how we have to grieve the person we “lost”–but instead, I’d just like to keep it simple: PAWS sucks.

According to the “illustrious” Wikipedia, the symptoms of PAWS–post-acute-withdrawal syndrome–include mood swings resembling an affective disorder, anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure from anything beyond use of the drug), insomnia, extreme drug craving and obsession, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, suicidal ideation and suicide and general cognitive impairment. These can last from a year to several decades, or indefinitely. YIKES.

I highlighted the ones that have affected me the most, and I think we can all agree: once we stop drinking, it doesn’t necessarily do jack shit for us. In fact, for me it meant seeing myself succumb to a lack of motivation that I blamed on my inherent nature, when really, it was just me coming off booze. That goes for my ongoing mood swings and depression, too.

I felt frustrated A LOT. Up until about a few months ago, actually. I mean, we stop drinking, and we’re supposed to feel great and happy and lovely, right? And yet…we feel WORSE sometimes (most of the time). We not only feel the depression or anxiety that we’ve been self-medicating away, but PAWS brings its own special form of hell. And, until we have medications to help us out with PAWS symptoms, we simply have to go through it in order to be able to look back and say, Ahh, so that’s what they were talking about. FUCK.

My main symptom has been lack of motivation. A feeling of “meh,” or “blah,” or “why bother?” surrounding basically everything–eating, reading, watching movies; working, hiking; going to bars and picnics and barbeques. It wasn’t that I didn’t have fun doing these things, or that they were so bad to do sober; it’s just that I totally noticed how much I MISSED wine and how most things just didn’t offer much reward for doing them without it. Wine was a serious motivating factor; it was also my main reward.

In learning more about how our reward circuitry gets fucked up when we come to depend on booze, it’s not hard to see how nothing but wine would motivate me. Our brains become sensitized to alcohol. What does this mean? It means that, other rewards–incentives, like eating good food or having an orgasm; or higher-level rewards, like a future job done well, or a big professional goal accomplished–other rewards lose meaning. They hold no weight, in fact. It’s like, the ONLY thing that’s going to do it for me, and by that I mean, instill in my brain a DESIRE to do something, is wine. Forget that it may or may not give me pleasure. What’s happened is that your dopamine circuits (among others that make wine the “high” that it is) have become attuned to this one stimulus–your only motivating factor becomes wine. Otherwise, there literally is no reason, in your mind, to do it.

Now, I’ve blogged about this before, but I’ve seen a lot of people on here lately complaining that they’re feeling depressed, or unmotivated, that they’re just going through the motions and really, wasn’t quitting drinking supposed to have the opposite effect? And, all I can say is, it takes time. YOU HAVE TO GIVE IT TIME. You have to live through the “blah” period. For me, that lasted for a good 1.5 years. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. My innate motivation–you know, how I used to “get pumped” to work out, to job search, to plan a trip to Greece…because these things are inherently worthy of doing–took some time to return.

I journaled a lot. I felt sorry for myself a lot. But, I also just went through the motions, and there’s a LOT to be said for just doing what needs to be done. I made a lot of to-do lists, and then, finally stopped berating myself for not getting to much of what was on my list. I just didn’t drink. Sometimes I’d go to bed early; a lot of times I did only what needed to be done in terms of work (I didn’t make very much money last year–haha); I bitched to my boyfriend; I took long walks with my dogs (they are my “higher power,” I swear); I ate a lot of sweets; I drank a shit-ton of Diet Coke. There were treats in the form of trips and hikes and lazy days on the beach–which were sometimes (often) clouded by me feeling bad or guilty about taking time off to heal, or not being capable of enjoying the moment. It just takes time, and constant effort. But, mostly, it just takes doing it, and going through the motions. Believe me, you will NOT be going through the motions forever, even though you’re convinced that things will never feel good again and you might as well drink because there is NO WAY you’re not drinking and putting up with this shit forever.

It’s like a really bad breakup: one day, you’ll just move on. One day, you’ll wake up and the gut-ache will have dissipated, poof, gone. One day, you’ll be like, Oh, well, he was a fucking asshole anyway. One day, you’ll say, Huh, I think I’m gonna wear some lipstick today, and maybe even some short shorts. HA.

Your motivation–spark, enthusiasm, desire to do, and to go, and to achieve–will come back. But it’s going to take time, healing time. It wasn’t until I gave myself a SOLID 7, 8, 9 months (and this was AFTER a solid 2, and then, 6 months first-tries at getting sober) that I started to see my thinking change. To feel butterflies again. YES, I’d actually feel butterflies once in a while (when was the last time I felt butterflies, in the ’90s?) thinking about the trip I was going to take, the book I was going to write, the new job I was going to apply for and work.

I’m still just starting to come back, but I am coming back. I have found myself having more random man-on-street conversations, being open to socializing; applying for jobs and not feeling like I can’t do them (that was scary, having so little self-confidence when it came to work, which was always “my thing”); in general, feeling at ease in my own skin again. Thinking back, I wonder, why did I make it so hard? Why was I just so…weird all the time? Not “myself?” Literally beside myself? Because getting sober–and PAWS–sucks, that’s why. But, it’s not going to suck all the time, and it’s definitely not going to suck forever. And, you will get through this. You have to. If you keep not drinking!

Consider this: what IF you healed your mind, and you could drink again? What IF you healed your mind and you simply did not WANT to drink again? These are very real possibilities. And, you can even use them as motivation to not drink–IT’S OK. Don’t let other people’s personal experiences in getting sober bog you down: your path is your own, and what you CHOOSE to do after a period of abstinence WHICH ALLOWS YOU TO FULLY HEAL, MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY, is up to you. But first you have to heal. And you have to see how this might work, the longer you go without your “go-to” (wine, in my case).

I’ve got a story/essay to outline, and job to apply to, and then, “me” time! And that always involves trees, sun, water, and exercise! Happy Sunday, all. (And, I’m inching toward 300 days come next Sunday–woo hoo, I guess.)

Who’s up for a boat trip without booze? I am, I am!

4 Feb

10:16 pm

Well, folks, it happened: I made it through an event–said boat trip to a neighboring island with a gang of drinkin’ buddies–with smoking and drinking all around the entire day, did not partake, and felt amazing the entire time! Like, comfortable just being there and not inhaling smoke and not sucking down liquids (other than Diet Coke). Sure, sometimes I felt like the old woman who wears purple, and that sucked a little. Otherwise, I felt great. And grateful.

It wasn’t that hard, for some reason. And, I had a lot of fun! And, from what I could tell (more on this qualifier below), I didn’t feel awkward or weird; in fact, I mostly felt SUPER-grateful to not be hung over. Last year, I went on a boat trip that was nightmarishly hard, mainly because I got belligerent drunk the night before and was SO hung over I wanted to die. That was a year ago, if that gives you any indication of how bad I felt–and therefore, how grateful I was yesterday.

Yes, it was GOOD to be sober, to be clear, to feel none of the sway and sleepy nausea of being drunk in the sun (how do people drink during the day? I never could, actually, without feeling horrible), to know that I wasn’t going to feel any of it the next day. One big, Ahhhhhhhh.

What WAS hard was hearing today at my NSA (network spinal analysis–I got a gift certificate so figured I’d check it out) appointment that my entire spine, from top to bottom, is in fight-or-flight mode. For the most part, that means locked up, and the muscles around the cord, firing constantly (no wonder I have pain and no wonder I’m tired all the time). The way the analyst put it, it’s like walking around with my arms extended the whole day.

I’ve always carried a lot of tension in my back. It’s where I store my emotional “trauma,” as well as how I “hide.” I can’t help some of it–ingrained response of an incurable introvert. For the past oh, 5 months or so, though, it’s been getting noticeably worse. And, its worsening condition seems to coincide precisely with my soberversary. Could it be that the more I’m sober–the more I have to deal with shit instead of escaping from it–the more I’m actually causing my body to tense up and freak out? I think so.

It sucks. It’s made me wonder if drinking wasn’t so bad after all? I mean, we all have past trauma and present anxiety, and it’s HARD to deal with it nonstop. Hard. I don’t get to wipe it away, even for a few hours. And, there is something to a hangover wherein your body just melts, stops resisting. Like, you don’t have the resources to keep your defenses up, so you actually let them down for however long it takes to get over it. There were times when I was CERTAIN that I’d never felt better the next day than after a few shots of tequila and a burger the night before (though, in those days, I hadn’t also drunk two bottles of wine). Seriously.

I wish I could turn it off, but I can’t. And, with the stress of transitions galore, and being sober and having to confront reality every second of every day… Well, I guess I’m going to have to focus on making some of my new coping mechanisms work–meditation, diverting my attention to the bigger picture/positive, etc. That is, until I can see that life isn’t supposed to be all about “getting through” it.

Sigh. What with all this mental and physical, let’s face it, PAIN–sometimes I actually look forward to shedding my physical body. This mortal coil. This pain in my ass that doesn’t seem to know how to BE in this material reality and go with its grain. All my life it’s been this way, fidgeting in my own skin. I’m TIRED of it. I’m OVER it. It doesn’t seem to get easier, it just seems to go in and out, shape-shifting from one form of expression (pain here, addictive behavior there) to another.

Oh, sparkle-toothed unicorn, where art thou?

Anyway, there I go again. Focus on the positive, remember? Coming up on 17 weeks sober this Thursday. 🙂

Being sober and being drunk have one thing in common

21 Dec

2:03 am

Life.

Lately I’ve been getting the sense that life isn’t that much different sober. I mean, I don’t have to deal with being ill and all the remorse and self-loathing and nonsense that comes with drinking and hangovers, sure. That’s definitely different. But, now that I’m passed the withdrawal stage(s), now that I’m moving beyond–over, I’d say–the cravings; I feel like Life (with a capital L) is still the same.

It’s hard to put my finger on it, but I don’t feel all that much different sober, personally. I’m still a hard worker, when I want to be. I’m still goal-oriented. I still like running, and animals, and music, and writing, and traveling…and all the other million things in this world that make me “me.” I’m just not obsessed with drinking at the end of my days! I’m happier, in general, sure, but it’s not like life is SO much better, or SO much different. I can see more clearly, yes, and my moods have improved. I can rely on my plans, mainly because I know that I’ll wake up in the morning and be able to follow through–yet, I would try to follow through anyway, it was just a billion times harder with a raging hangover. Maybe I’m just used to not drinking now, and all that comes with it.

I’m coasting. YIKES. Me? I keep waiting for the wolf to pounce, for the desire to drink to roar up out of the hole I buried it in; for the blood-sucking vampire to emerge, in full form, from the grave. I keep waiting, checking over my shoulder every few days to see if it’s following me, the wolf or the vampire. (Where art thou, Sparkle-toothed Unicorn?) I’m not sure I’m out of the woods. Truth be told, I know I’m not.

See, if I let my guard down and open a bottle of red, I’d down the whole thing, I’m sure. And then, I’d head off in search of another, I know. Sigh. How can I seem so confident and then realize, by the same token, that I’m still beholden to this compulsion? In other words, I can say all I want about how “good” I feel being sober, but I’d probably get drunk if I could. And, even more maddening, it wasn’t ALWAYS like this. There were days, let’s say when I was 28, 29, 30 years old (just 8 years ago), when I NEVER could have imagined that this obsession–this desire to down oceans of wine instead of one or two glasses–would have such a hold on me. I don’t remember thinking about drinking back then, outside of when I was actually drinking.

Anyway… Today marks 10 WEEKS, or 70 days! Wow. It’s the longest I’ve gone. I never tried to not drink, and over the past 10 years, I should have–I really should have. (It takes what it takes, as they say in AA.) The closest I came was 60 days in August, and now I’ve gone past that by 10. I’m looking ahead toward 90, but I’m not expecting it to drop a pot of gold on my head or anything; life is life, death is death, by turns glorious and surreal.

(I do wonder, though, what I’d be like if I was holding down a “real” job (read: office, deadlines, bitchy editor), or if I was living alone in [cold east coast city]. I’ve constructed a life here that’s pretty temptation-less, and so far, somewhat contained. When the time comes, I’ll deal, right? Right. Let go and let God. ;))

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