Tag Archives: mindfulness

Quiet mind time

19 Jul

4:34 pm

I took a few days off this blog, just to quiet my mind. It’s helped, among other things.

Lately, I’ve gotten off Facebook (mostly; I went on the other day, and I ended up “using” it in the same way I would a bottle of red wine, all at once and nothing at all); I’ve been trying to focus on the few job prospects that I have leads on (rather than continuing to troll the job boards, day in and day out); and I’ve sort of distanced myself from some other people’s drama (not to be mean, but out of needing to stay centered on maintaining my own mental health in the time of COVID).

Whew, just writing it all down makes my head spin. Over the years, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into sharing my getting-sober process–sometimes, re-reading my blog makes me go, Wow, I can’t believe how thoughtful I was back then, but at the same time go, What happened to me, I can’t even figure out what’s for dinner anymore? I’ve spent a career consuming information, wrangling my head around science writing, and in general, trying to stay on top of my own tendency to overanalyze everything, thought-wise. I am kind of burnt out on it, to be honest. I just want to take a step back sometimes and embrace what is around me–my “right now,” I guess you could call it.

What IS around me is glorious: bright pinkish-red hibiscus flowers springing randomly out of a bush just outside my window; several bunches of mangoes, hanging from a neighboring big-leafed tree. There is green all around me, actually, from the bush right outside, lining our walkway, in all shapes and sizes; to the hillsides covered in greening foliage (it’s been a long dry season; soon, the rains will really green up the bush); to the water below, which can range from bright baby-blue to green-tinged or deep blue-black.

We went on a boat trip yesterday, and it was tiring but nice; SO nice to just remove my mind, take it off its usual course, and train it on the sun and wind and water, on blue and yellow and bright-white. I sometimes think it’d be SO NICE to silence my mind forever, to stop all my thoughts before they start. Then, of course, I get to thinking, should I completely discard my thoughts? Maybe some of them are worth holding onto? Right now, I write it all down, then let most of it go; maybe one day, I’ll be able to just let it go.

Lately, I’ve been job searching; trying to read (eh); wondering if I should start freelance pitching again (eh); and, kind of spending my time just trying to set up a new normal. I had a “normal” with my old job–which allowed me little time (and so, no option!) to freelance or work on personal writing projects–but now, the slate is blank, so… It’s up to me to draw some new pictures, to create a new normal. It can feel intimidating, sure, but that’s where staring off into space once in a while helps; centering on the sound of the waves, the neighborhood dogs barking, the roosters crowing; turning it all off and heading out to the water–turning it off and realizing the power of embracing the silence, the stillness, the calm.

The deep end

28 May

1:03 pm

I don’t have much time today, so I’m going to dive right in (no pun intended!).

So, as everyone with depression, anxiety, and/or obsessive thought “disorders” knows–at least, intuitively if not consciously–our dark thoughts can intrude on us, control us, and pull us down. They float us toward the deep end, and if we are not careful, they pull us under to a dark, motionless place, a place that is hard to get out of, a place that controls us, a place that traps us. We feel trapped by–and within–our dark thoughts, which may be true (at least for the while that we’re under them, in the deep end).

I don’t know how to explain this any better than with the recent example of the dark place(s) that my picking up trash alone took me; or, talking to both my parents with (relatively) untreated mental health disorders (I have yet to blog about this, but will one day soon). Regarding the former, I just felt pissed off, but almost irrationally so. I mean, yes, there is trash on the side of the road and it sucks that people throw it down, but that does not mean that I necessarily need to get angry about it, think bad things about EVERYONE who lives here, believe that I am defeated and there is no reason to ever go outside again. I don’t need these thoughts, and I don’t need to allow myself to be trapped in this deep end. I can permit myself to let go of, or forget, these thoughts–they are not “real” in the sense that, they are not truth; they are not necessary to think, or to hold onto, in order to find truth in my daily life or to live truthfully.

Same goes for the thoughts I find myself having, uncontrollably, when I talk to either of my parents on the phone. I listen to them, I hear their thought patterns, and I wonder why they have constructed such dark–paranoid, angry, anxious–world views. I think to myself, what you believe, dear parents, how you live your lives, are these really your idea of truth? Yet, I struggle to justify their thoughts and behavior, to try and overlay them on what I would consider a more general construct of reality–most people are not obsessively thinking about doing ONE thing and not doing it for months, years, decades at a time (mom); most people are not setting up businesses on a whim, trying to borrow money against a negative bank balance (dad). I fail to see their realities fitting within the lines of this general construct (which, I admit, is simply based on interacting with many other, different people over the years).

In truth (I believe), I am trying to reason with what is unreasonable–and, that takes my mind to a dark place, a place where thoughts have no doors, no windows, no outlets.

This is a place, I have come to believe, where I do not need to be.

I used to think that I had to think all these thoughts; that these thoughts were supposed to hold court, keep me thinking them until I figured “it” out. I have come to realize that I am either creating an “it” that does not exist (everyone here is a litterbug) or trying to make common sense out of others’ affected or deluded thinking. I do not have to do either! Moreover, I shouldn’t! Not unless I myself can tolerate drowning in the deep end, coming up for air once in a while to glimpse my lighter reality (consciously constructed to be so, over the course of years of getting sober and practicing avoiding the behavioral pitfalls of my own obsessive and/or deluded thinking).

Maybe this post is just crazy-sounding, but honestly, I am beginning to think that all thought might just be a by-product of evolution gone wrong (haha).

I will, one day, write a post about my parents’ mental health; but, I have come to understand that I don’t really know shit (I do know that having a “normal” conversation with either of them is really hard; then again, what is “normal”?). Plus, I never want to talk about other people’s mental health without their express permission and input. Too often, people talk about these things as if they know; mental health “problems” are intricate expressions of the human experience, which comes in infinite forms. Who am I to judge, to talk about someone’s “reality”, especially considering my background and difficulty finding footing in a version of a livable reality of my own?

Anyway, it’s time to go out for a jog since the rain stopped. SO glad we got some rain here, it was getting pretty darn dry!

Our dog is hanging in there; she seems to have had a slight recovery. She can go on walks now, with the help of a sling for her hind end/legs–and most importantly, she WANTS to! I’ve been seeing the puppy in her come out once in a while, which is sweet; she tries to get up and drink water on her own more often than a few weeks ago; and, she regularly wants to go and lay in her spots outside (she loves being outside, always has). I dote on her a LOT, but, I figure, she needs it and um, I need it!

Facebook-free for six weeks and counting. Admittedly, I have kept messenger on my iPad (I do want to receive messages, if people choose to chat via that app versus phone text); and the other day (well, a few times), I clicked on a few Facebook stories and…got sucked in and got annoyed within a matter of a minute or less. SO, for me, it’s better to just stay off it; for reasons that are probably my issue, I just dislike the FOMO and I dislike the feelings that come from FOMO–I am off Facebook because MY mind and heart are much more at peace if I just don’t connect with my “friends” on that platform. I am still considering deactivating after two months, so we’ll see…

You are what you think, or not think

2 May

12:11 pm

I just got done listening to the NPR hourly news broadcast, and it was nothing but reports on death and destruction.

The Morning Edition show is all about coronavirus, each story having its unique, terrible angle.

When I troll through my Apple news feed, the stories bring to life, literally, death, destruction, and in general, a sense of anxiety toward the people, places, and things in this world.

When I go on this blog, I write (and read) posts about life, drinking, sobriety–the underlying constant being struggle, rumination, darkness (albeit, a darkness-turned-light).  I mean, there is this thing called a pandemic, and there is this thing called human nature, the human experience–none of it is easy!  And, there IS light in sobriety (which has been born of dark days, for all of us).  However, I (we?) tend to usually write about the struggle to out-think addiction and mental health disorders so that I (we?) can see and feel and breathe in that light.  One day.

I am just tired of it all, in the best way possible, I guess.  I have spent eight years writing about the darkness–the ruminative thinking that perpetuates the darkness.  WHAT IF…I stopped breeding more darkness by simply stopping the thinking, stopping the writing about it all?  By focusing more on the forest not the trees, on things that are not enveloped in the dark shadows of ego-centric thinking, the twists and turns that bind and trap my mind?

I know this to be true:  while daily journaling helps me process my reality and stay sane (100% true, which is why I can’t quit it), I wonder if I am just giving shape and form to dark thoughts and thought patterns–unnecessarily and to my detriment?  In other words, I am not sure if journaling is healthy–or, if it just makes me more pensive; at the very least, if it just brings to light smoldering pre-thoughts that should really just die there, in the rustling, restless dirt patch of my neurotic mind.

Is writing about it making it worse?  Or, should I continue on, living the whole “the unexamined life is not worth living” thing?

I’d like to somehow move on from this process, but to give it up?  I am not sure how I’d function, for real, without my daily journaling (and, I guess this includes blogging here).  I have been longing for some time for an emptier mind–maybe like a white-walled room, or a beach with no movement on the water–emptier than one that has been purposefully splashed with stark, contrasting colors or toed up to make the water murky with sand.

I don’t know; I have been wondering for years, is this writing about it all the time making it better or worse, and I have to conclude:  only I can make that call, decide to carry on or cancel the show.  And, I have to trust my judgment–and ignore the fear of missing out, or of being forgotten–instead of relying on anyone else’s say in the matter.  No one is going to tell me what to do, so, I have to go with my gut (my gut always comes running back to writing it all down, though).

In the end, this is one of those things that made me drink, made me drink alcoholically; it is, in a way, part of my addiction as much as it is part of who I am and who I have grown up to be.  I have always been overly thoughtful and more than a little self-conscious; it’s good for a writer, but bad for a human.  I guess the answer lies in understanding oneself and finding the balance…

Three weeks off Facebook coming up, and I swear, I do not miss it at all.  I SO do not miss keeping up with my “friends,” which makes me wonder a bit about myself, but mainly, gives me a huge sense of relief and solace that I could so easily just let the whole thing go…  I get my news elsewhere, and eh, I don’t think I necessarily need to reconnect with my professional groups, though, I know I will want to one day soon.  Till then, I am happy in my bubble of not knowing; I think it’s time to focus that energy on myself and my projects and goals (to finally start meditating?  haha).

Ironically, just a post as food for thought (or, shall I say, food for not-thought?)!

Writing and cold cities

27 Nov

11:45 am

Hey, folks, Well, I’m here, back at it, and ready to be fierce.  NOT!  Happy Thanksgiving to all, and a kickoff of the holiday season!  For some, that means painful memories, for others, it means an uber-busy next few months.  For me, it means both, and cookies, and cakes, and just continuing to be grateful–5-plus years later–that I am here, and not there.  Here, having this life, with its ups and downs; and not there, drinking my everything away, and all the possible everything’s, too.

I realized recently that part of what is causing me to feel less than whole is that I’ve stopped writing.  Even writing this makes me feel a bit sick in the pit of my belly–anxious, actually.  Must must must start writing again!  I think  my depression, and self-loathing (to be blunt, I hate myself more than a little when I don’t write or create), is caused by this.  There is no magic in my world if I’m not writing, or, in general, being creative.  I look at this blog and think, what happened to that girl?  She is still here, she’s just not writing.  And therefore, not feeling quite whole.

The hurricanes have turned our world upside down, and rearranged our lives.  I miss going to the beach; I miss running on said beach road.  I miss knowing that while I’m in the middle of the ocean, things are FINE here–things are NOT fine here, and things won’t be fine for a while.  There are uncertainties that won’t–can’t–be ironed out.  There are things and faces and places that are never coming back.  And, while I want to ignore this reality, it’s there, the new “normal,” as everyone down here keeps repeating.

I refuse to give up, though, on figuring out what, exactly, I need and want right now.  It’s not wine, it might be hormones, it could be a move (while we have made our exit plan, which is both saddening and enlivening to me, I know changing locations is not going to change what’s going on inside my head and heart, fundamentally), and it most definitely is to start writing/being creative more.  I won’t give up!  And, I won’t stop choosing to be happy, content, grateful, and empowered by that choice.

I flew home last week after about 3 weeks away.  I am glad to be home, with my loves, in the light (literally; cities just might not be in my cards anymore because they are so dark, so angular); and one main thing I realized when I was there, in the big city, is that if I’m honest, I don’t really want that lifestyle anymore.  And, that it is OK to be angry and that instead of fighting the anger, the sadness, the whatever negativity I’m feeling, I should just accept it.  Huh?  The thought sort of bowled me over:  accept and don’t judge your negative feelings instead of exhausting yourself trying to outrun them.  I’m going to try the former and see what happens.

And, so, yeah, cities.  Drinking and going out in cities, which is what I did and how I defined myself for so long.  Not anymore.  I mean, YAH, it really is a bit more heartening to go out for a pink twilit walk with the dogs than to be walking into a pub, ready to temporarily and artificially enhance my mood!  It really is better this way, soooo much better.  Even when I feel quite lonely here–alone as we all do now and then on our solo paths and journeys–I know that I have this world within that is never-changing, that is always bathed in that pink moonlight, that is there to hold me, to embrace me, and to tell me that It Will Be OK.

It Will Be OK.

That is default setting when you’re sober.  When you’re not, default setting is, The World Sucks and Nothing Will (Ever) Be OK.

Walking into a cold bar to drink among cold non-friends?  Eh, no thanks anymore.  I choose light, and happiness, and maybe even accepting the darkness so I can move through it without fear.  Huh, maybe cold cities have more to teach me than I thought?

Social media–helpful or harmful?

16 Aug

8:46 am

Ahh, social media. Suffice to say, I think we all have love-hate relationships with it.

Lately, I have been quiet: head down, working, job searching, and really, simply trying to enjoy life outside of the computer screen once I actually manage to turn it off. The writing is on the wall (literally, since I’m a writer) that, while I like what I do–and it’s brought me a lot of pride and sense of accomplishment to have made my living for two years as a freelancer–I don’t earn enough money! I mean, I won’t bore you with the deets again, but I simply need to earn more. And, we’re not talking a little bit more; we’re talking, graduate student loans and supplemental income for my mom and buying a vineyard in Greece before I turn 50 more! I have always been driven, and responsible when it comes to earning my keep–I never received help from my parents. However, these past two years have put me nearly in the red (I am past red, let’s face it).

All that aside, I am doing well. Feeling strong. Recovering from my trip (where I acquired a mosquito-borne illness that among other things, I think, has been contributing to me feeling like the bug and not the windshield many days this month). In a weaker moment, I stood in front of the shelves of wine bottles at the grocery store for about 15 minutes one night, I was feeling that desperate to “fix” my depression.

BUT, my practically sole sane thought was the loudest of the bunch: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Like, what happens after that first bottle, practically speaking? Another bottle? Another $10? Another one? Again, another $10? It really is amazing to find myself thinking rationally about this, to be able to be MINDFUL enough to think past the craving and say, Self, this is not a solution; this IS THE PROBLEM.

I started blogging about getting sober over two years ago. I am on Facebook and will remain on Facebook for professional reasons. I have been able to dodge Twitter, mainly, but not at a cost to my professional life–it’s a cost I’m willing to pay, in exchange for my sanity. I don’t do Instagram, but I think it’d be more difficult to resist if I had a data plan on my phone (which I don’t, because I don’t earn enough money as a freelance writer, which I MIGHT, actually, if I was on Twitter–you see where this rabbit hole is going).

I’m not a stranger to social media, and all the benefits it offers. However, lately, social media has had me perplexed. Vexed. It feels inauthentic, and what’s more, empty. I think that participating in an echo chamber like Twitter, or Facebook, or yes, even these blogs–while amazingly helpful–can be part of the problem. This “thinking problem” that seems to be part of the reason we self-soothe with alcohol, or other substances. We are already so much in our heads–afflicted by ruminative, navel-gazing tendencies–is social media making this better, or worse? Even if it’s GOOD navel-gazing, is it ever really, for “people like us?” For people who need to Turn It Off, more or less? I understand there is a fine line between denial and mindfulness, and I’m having a hard time seeing it these days.

I guess this is why I’ve stayed off this blog for almost two weeks now? I just feel like…forever hashing it out–well, it’s just not working for me the way it used to. Maybe I need to collect myself and move onto a new project? We’ll see…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: after the initial contact–getting sober, seeing your faults, comparing and contrasting everything you do to drinking and then, to abstinence–it’s OK to simply let it go. It really is OK to let it go.

On that note, I’m going to sign off and do just that. 🙂

Words, words, words

4 May

11:44 am

Well, that was interesting. I just got off Facebook and this blog and blah blah blah. Words, words, words. If anyone understands the peril of relying too heavily on words to explain, define, or clarify, it’s me!

You know, lately I’ve been feeling uncomfortable with all “social” media. Without going into it too much, it triggers me. I guess I have residual anxiety, but even anticipating a response–any kind–to a Facebook post, or a blog post, or an email makes me feel…uneasy. I don’t need this, and neither does my sobriety.

I’ve also been really struggling with the navel-gazing aspect to sobriety and to writing about the process of getting sober. Maybe I’ve been doing it too long and simply need a break. Let it be known that all is well, and words are only words–they can’t even come close to expressing the infinity of every moment, let alone of a life lived. All I can say is, this is a new post, and a new day, and I might simply stop writing about my sobriety in favor of writing about other stuff on here–or not! We’ll see.

On that note, I’m going to the beach. Or for a walk. Either would be great, as long as it doesn’t involve my brain. 🙂

Remember: your drinking and your sobriety, as a story source once told me, is only a part of your life. It’s not the whole story, that’s for sure. YOU have control over how you construct your reality. Today, my reality will consist of sun, sand, a very quieted mind, laundry, cleaning, quieting the mind again, job searching (ugh!), volunteer searching (yay!), and enjoying being outside myself. Maybe more walking, a little Bebel Gilberto, and some massive cheesy pasta dish later when the coqui frogs start making noise and let me know (again) that all IS really as it should be and I can relax into that notion. (I must admit, animals seem to make up my “higher power” to a large extent: doves, frogs, crickets, and my dogs, to name a few.)

Happy Sunday, all. Small part of a big, big, big reality, is my mantra today. And, let it go, let it go, let it go. 🙂

HALT–Hungry, Angry, Lack of control, Tired

12 Feb

8:09 pm

HALT. Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. I am hearing that phrase ringing truer and truer the longer I maintain my sobriety. For me, that’d be, Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lack of control, or Tired.

My biggest triggers are indeed hunger and anger–both make me feel like I might want to drink. However, even bigger ones are feeling like I don’t have control and feeling fatigued (sick, or ill, comes in here, too, and maybe that should be put into “lack of control”). I realized this today, as I was interpreting my life as being super-out of my control. A few tears welled up in my eyes as I checked off all the shit that I simply DO NOT have control over:

work
the energy to attain said paycheck
my constant back pain
my ongoing sleep disturbances/insomnia
my water quality (we have cistern water)
my REACTIONS to all this lack of control
etc. (this would include, for example, my greying hair–haha)

In writing this, I realize now that I do, in fact, have control–or the ability to control–all these things! I just have to consider different options.

Obviously, I don’t have control of the world, of the way things happen. BUT, I realized today that there are some things that I NEED control over, to a certain extent, in order to remain sober, basically. And, that what I CAN do is construct a life that feels safe, in that certain elements are there/controlled for.

When it comes to work, I know I need to keep it challenging, but I’ve learned to take breaks, turn it off when need be (well, learning how not to exhaust myself before it’s too late and I hear wolfie breathing down my neck), and set only attainable goals. Once upon a time, I used to believe that “Make your goals unattainable” was a perfect motto to live by. Now? No. Just, no. Not if you’re someone like me, who goes crazy trying. I mean, of course, we all have to work, and we might not like that; but, I can choose to let’s say, write freelance instead of going into an offices every day and doing marketing copy. I can control for the amount I earn, and the amount of time I put in (unless, of course, I’m a new freelance writer, which I am!). Plus, for me, going into an offices adds a dimension of “pain” that is hard for my younger self–and sacral spine–to imagine.

So, OK, I have control over my choice of work. And a relative degree of control over the amount of incidental pain I have to endure every day. Yet…with that tradeoff comes the uncertainty of the freelance paycheck–will I or won’t I either have enough work or have enough energy to find enough work? That, I’d say, is my number one item in the “I feel like I have no control” column. Right under this is my reaction to this kind of stress, which is negative. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have control over my reactions, and I react, and I feel angry and frustrated–just like I did when I was drinking, and man, it is the exact same feeling and it makes me want to drink. Of course, I calm myself down better now, and talk myself off the edge fairly efficiently, but, I wish I didn’t let myself get there in the first place.

Sometimes a lack of initiative on my part is really just a lack of stamina. I can’t go as hard as I used to; or, I simply don’t want to. Or, I don’t have wine to fuel me. I get tired faster, and what with being so PAWS-y for so long, I am just now recovering my powers of concentration. The past month this has been waning, and it worries me. Being tired–or sick, I guess–hasn’t helped, and that just makes me angry. Very mature, I know.

So, I don’t know what this post is about except, if you need more control, take it. There are some things that need to be there, and that are OK to hold an iron fist above–especially if the stress of not having that control is going to make you wander aimlessly back to the wine aisle in the grocery store. If you need a break, take it. It’s not worth drinking over. If you get extra hungry, or extra tired, or extra angry–hello, PMS!–sleep on it. Manage it, but let some things slide (it’s OK to binge on ice cream for dinner, says Dr. Drunky Drunk Girl; it’s more than OK to sleep for 10 hours if you have the time). It’s not worth drinking over. If you feel like you have no control, maybe you just don’t have enough control? Getting sober is hard and takes a lot of focus and concentration–you are basically re-wiring your brain–you need some things to be taken care of, and not flying around, willy nilly, you know? Maybe you need to construct a tighter household, so to speak; pull some things off the burners; cut the last 14 items off your to-do list–they probably aren’t that important anyway.

Sometimes still, it’s hard to figure out if I’m tired for real, or if I’m burnt out (I see my energy to pitch stories coming in daily, weekly, and monthly waves), or if I’m just being PAWS-y and need a break because my sober brain isn’t ready yet for the big leagues. It’s hard to figure out how, exactly, to react differently, and to gain more control over my reactions. But, I know if I try to change the course of my reactions, even when it feels like I’ve gone too far in, I can do it.

What helped me today to curb my emotional reaction (to the stress of the pressures of freelance, of feeling nostalgic for my grad school years as I contemplate my hourly wage at my new job)? Shutting myself in the office for the first hour or so, and then, taking a little walk later morning. And then, remembering that I am a new me, and I am no longer the girl who reacts violently and carries it with her to the end of the day and the end of three wine bottles. I am a new me, and I do things differently. And, this is how I do it now. And then, realizing that right then and there, I am re-learning how to do things, and how to do things better than I used to. I am practicing this and I am turning the tables. It’s weird, and painful, but good.

Sometimes I feel like a child. With navel-gazing powers that rival a superhero’s. Yes, I’m ready for a change of scenery!

Now would be a good time to drink…

22 Nov

7:33 pm

Now would be the time to drink, if there is one. I just finished three stories and well, two months’ income.

I’ve already blogged about why “now” would not, actually, be a good time to drink: it’s November 22nd, and I still have to find December’s income. I still have NO idea where that money is coming from yet–could be in the form of an assigned story, could be in the form of a story or two that I have yet to pitch. Ugh. Freelancing. And, then, there’s January, and February, and March’s income. Sometimes, I can’t imagine ever feeling like I deserve to rest, a break, a reward. Do I?

I did it, though. I picked myself up this summer, worked my arse off to grind this business to a start, and actually did it. I know being sober has everything to do with it. This has been months, years in the making. And I’ve worked really hard to get here–not just to have those handful of stories, whatever. I’ve worked hard the way you all know that this revising-your-entire-existence-on-planet-Earth is hard when you get sober.

Sigh. I still want to drink tonight, though. As a reward. As a break. It’s what I always did. It’s what I’ve always done after filing hefty stories. I’ve EARNED this, haven’t I? I’ve been planning it for months, in a way: once I get to “this” point along the way in the freelance thing, then I can drink.

I told my boyfriend I was going to drink a “couple” of glasses of wine tonight, but in my heart, I know I’m lying. For all intents and purposes, I’m not in the mood to drink.

But I still “want” to. So, what do I do? I go and grab my wine glass, fill it to the top (cuz that’s how I roll; 6-ounce “glass,” my ass) with some homemade sorrel tea, and whoa, what a surprise! Sorrel’s got a tinge of an aftertaste, and it feels/tastes very much like wine. I put ginger (along with cloves and cinnamon) in this iced tea, so it sort of burns on the way down, and once there, simmers in my belly. And, by golly, it feels like I’m drinking wine! And, no shit, I “feel” the symptoms of being drunk.

When I got drunk, I’d feel the good feelings–happy, excited, caution-to-the-wind, big ideas–and I’d feel the bad–dizzy, brain coming undone, spaced out, tired, bloated, stomach burning. Sometimes the bad would totally outweigh the good, especially toward the end when the buzz didn’t even show up. Maybe it’s my association of these feelings, similar to the ones I’m getting from the tea, with being drunk that’s making me actually feel drunk?

In any case, it just reminds me of how NOT WORTH IT it is. I just feel down, tired, spaced out, and my stomach is burning. I have that sick, wine aftertaste in the back of my throat, and I’m going to keep taking swallows of that sick, tart wine and make that aftertaste worse. Stomach’ll keep burning, throat will reflexively gag, but I’ll keep downing that wine–every sip taking me further and further outside of my head. Pretty soon, I’ll be tipsy, which may or may not involve feeling buzzed; my head will start to hurt; I’ll start to feel really dizzy; I’ll lose sense of my chain of thoughts; and I’ll feel confused, like my brain is literally coming unglued, as if big chunks of neurons are coming unhinged from one another, cell by cell.

And then, I’ll be like, oh, a bottle is gone?, and I feel nothing but numb. Not better, just numb. And sick. And drunk. And…now $10 is gone, the night is spent, and I have nothing to show for it except…a horrible day tomorrow of being hung over, of not being able to work or do anything I had planned. Ugh. It just adds up to zero.

So, yeah. While I “want” to drink, I don’t. And that confuses me, because I feel both at once. I guess I’ll just refill my wine glass with more sorrel tea and pretend I’m drunk. Or, maybe I’ll go to the bar (my neighbors are leading a pub crawl at the bar up the road) and watch all the drunken people perform their stupid human tricks?

No good can come. No good can come. I KNOW this, but… I feel left out.

You know, I used to hate those cautious people, the ones who were like, “Oh, I better stop, I’ve already had two.” FUCK YOU. I was so impulsive when it came to wine, so impulsive and dangerous in my choices, my behavior. Now, I’m turning (turned) into one of those cautious people I hated! Maybe I always was/am too cautious to allow my inner zen to be disturbed–maybe that’s the real me, and I’m just having to get used to her being around again.

And, now it’s 7:50 and the night is too old for me to start drinking now. Plus, I wasn’t kidding, I think I’m really heading over to the bar where my boyfriend works to make fun of (feel glad it’s not me) the drunkards.

200 days plus 7 weeks = almost 250 days! 50 more until day 300, and then…?

Update at 10:51 pm: so, I went to the bar, saw some people, drank some pineapple and club soda, and ate some Roquefort cheese (ugh, not only cheese, but FRENCH cheese; all I could think was, This would go so much better with some French wine). And, well, I still want to drink. I still want that “break.” I still feel left out, and friend-less, in a way. I miss drinking to socialize, I really do. Oh, well.

Happiness is a choice

24 Sep

10:47 am

Good morning. Or, is it?

I woke up to some fierce lower back pain and immediately took 4 Advil. It’s a bummer, knowing that at 39, all I can do is work with the pain and not–maybe never–remove it. It’s weird; I feel handicapped. It makes me sad, angry, and worn out. It is constant, and I feel like I’ve tried everything to fix it. I have, for the most part, given up.

And, this is all before I commence to sit right back down on my ass, spine crunching nerves, and get to work. THIS is what I do; I can’t seem to figure out another way.

Yet, the day is bright, and I have my plans, and I’m not thinking of drinking, and, well: happiness is a choice. I’m not sure why it’s a hard one to make sometimes, and why is should take effort (as in, maybe I’m doing it wrong), but, happiness is a constantly-being-made choice, isn’t it? Happiness is a choice. And, I can do this. If there is one thing I can do now, it’s this. I can usher the bad thoughts out, or sequester them, or filter them out gradually through some deep breaths. I’m still left with the pain, yes, but I can see my choice, facing me, and it is simple: happy or not?

I choose happy. But, mostly, I know now that I GET to choose. How black is that? (SNL reference!)

Anger, Buddhism, and the 12 steps, oh my!

6 Jul

1:11 pm

As I posted yesterday, The Fix published a piece I wrote about blogging myself sober. Obviously, it’s not the ONLY thing I’ve done to “get and stay sober,” but that’s beside the point. I think connecting with others who share your problem, and who can help you DEFINE its gray areas, is the key. So, thanks to all of you out there who continue to help me stay the course.

There were some negative comments posted in response to the piece, which I found, for the most part, to be instructive (thankfully!).

Why are some people so angry about a seemingly-successful recovery that either does not involve meetings or the 12 steps, or does not involve “as much work as someone else” or “the way that they did the work?”

What can I glean from the 12 steps, and why do I keep coming back to them, feeling like I’ve got some unfinished business? Maybe I AM a dry drunk?

If it wasn’t the personalities in AA, or the sharing, or the group therapy aspect that bothered me all that much, it must have been the steps, right? What am I afraid of? What about the steps hangs me up?

It’s those words: powerlessness, God, higher power. To me, the 12 steps are not rocket science; in fact, in order to get sober, EVERYONE has to do some version of these “steps,” I’ve come to believe. You might not KNOW you’re doing the steps, but you are. We admit we can’t drink anymore; we accept this fact. We feel remorse and say we’re sorry. We work on our relationships, we question our sense of purpose–why are we using booze to avoid or hide from what we know, deep down, we should and could be doing? I used wine for YEARS to avoid writing; yet, it’s the one thing I knew that if I just fucking DID it, I’d be free. Free of both the urge to drink away my fear and sensitivities surrounding “putting it out there” and possibly failing, and free from the self-loathing brought on by not doing it!

I wondered, how do atheists approach the steps? Do Muslims go to AA? What do people who come from non-Judeo-Christian backgrounds and worldviews think of AA? I mean, people all over the world have drinking problems–how do they approach the steps if they don’t, actually, believe in “God,” per se? What–or who–IS God? A quick Google search made me realize that the concept of God is extremely broad, and can range from an overlord or all-knowing being to, well, “being” or “existence” itself. Huh. As a scientist, I am not a theist, but neither am I convinced that “being” or “existence” does not hold a higher order. The whole is, most of the time in the biological sciences anyway, greater than the sum of its parts. Systems biology takes advantage of the FACT that studying systems of genes, or proteins, or cells can lead to surprising insights into how things actually work when we’re not reducing them to their parts.

At the beach yesterday, I felt the need (and this is usually accompanied by a lot of gesturing and loud talking to myself, so my apologies to the boyfriend–LOL) to tease out my “official” definition of these words. And, here’s what I came up with:

Powerlessness: To me, this is simply my desire (key word) to drink more than just one. I can never drink one. Why? Because I don’t WANT to. And this, I think, is where the neurochemistry of addiction comes in: my brain is wired–at the moment, at least, because I’ve abused wine for so long–to want more than one. It’s an urge that is VERY strong. And, already after one, my “rational brain” is starting to become overpowered by my “irrational brain.”

This is actually the opposite of the general idea that most people, including myself, have of powerlessness. I have a choice, yes I do; and that choice is to drink a second. Whether or not that choice is a good choice, well, morals aside, the powerlessness lies in my reward system being fucked up.

God: Well, since I do not believe in a deity or any sort of omniscient creator being, I would say that “God” is the order of the universe, being, life itself.

Higher power: I’ve always thought that this is simply my higher self, a literal higher consciousness. In fact, I now believe that when we “bottom out,” or hit our lows, we’re actually becoming our most self-aware. Our wake-up calls are just that: we snap out of it, we awaken, we’re fully conscious of just how bad it is. We’re at the top of our game then, not the bottom. This higher consciousness is our most aware selves–the self that knows better, wants the best for us, sees our potential, follows that “order” of the universe, or at least, of being human, which is to protect our bodies and minds from harm, to sleep when it’s dark, to wake when it’s light.

Defects of character: This was a hard one, but I figured it out on the ride home, with the help of my boyfriend. My biggest problem in this whole nightmare has been learning how to forgive myself. I realized that IF, in fact, I viewed my higher power as myself–the best version of myself, the mindful, awakened version–then, couldn’t asking myself for forgiveness be the same thing as asking “God” to remove my “defects of character?” YES, it really could.

In my research last in night, I came across Kevin Griffin, who founded the Buddhist Recovery Network, who has written some excellent pieces for HuffPo on the Buddhist approach to recovery, and whose work I can’t wait to read more of. It sort of helped to confirm some of my new ideas, which, apparently, I’m not the first person to have. 😉

I guess maybe a step meeting could’ve helped me wade through the murky semantics of the steps, or a Google search earlier in my recovery, but so it goes. If I look at the steps with my new definitions in mind, they might read as such:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
(I am powerless to not want that second drink…and then, it’s all downhill because my rational brain turns off the warning and my irrational brain turns on the “It’ll be different this time, it won’t hurt you, you can drink as much as you want, forget about last time, there is no last time…”)

2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
(That power is myself–my aware, awakened, mindful self; the one who’s looking at me when I’m jogging in the hot sun thinking, Good job, and, You deserve to be awesome.)

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
(Wonderfully explained by Kevin here.)

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
(Among a lot of other things, this would include shit I did that I still haven’t forgiven myself for…because I have offended others and hurt myself.)

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
(Admitting to ourselves, really, the things that we haven’t forgiven ourselves for having done. I have a few select people who know EVERYTHING, and I’m grateful that it’s been easy, in a way, to “unburden” myself to these friends.)

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
(Ready to forgive ourselves, to stop caring if others have or will forgive us, to really let it all go, and to start moving forward in our emotional lives. Self-actualizing?)

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
(Asked ourselves for forgiveness, and the power to let it go.)

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
(Being aware of our thoughts and feelings, of our actions and especially, REACTIONS, to these thoughts and feelings. To live in the world without taking anything personally.)

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
(Staying aware, practicing mindfulness.)

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
(This one, I’m not sure about. Maybe just helping others see their problem is not necessarily about moral flaws, it’s about fear of living and fear of self-discovery–and, the truth (your personal truth) will set you free…?)

What do you think?

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