Tag Archives: motivation

I can work without wine!

17 Nov

1:04 pm

I’ve had a lot of thoughts lately, but I’m just checking in today. Still here, still plugging away. I had two big weeks the past few, and today will be a big day, and then five more big days–all work, no wine. And, I am doing it.

It’s been tiring, and I still have to figure out the work-life (I have none to speak of yet) balance, but I’m actually really proud to say that I have three pieces coming out, have made my bills for October and November, and am *hopefully* going to make my bills for December (working up some pitches now, and waiting on some editing work to come through). This freelance life is pretty stressful, I must admit, and the day I go back to a 9-to-5 will be the last day I ever complain about working a 9-to-5; but, yeah, I’m proud to say that I’m not only doing it–I am doing it sober.

Honestly, it’s taken me over a year–almost a year and a half–to get my motivation and concentration levels back to where I can work. Well, to where I can work without the “reward” that was so wired into my brain. I can work without the reward of wine, and I can rest and get ready to work again without the reward of wine. There were a few times this week when I was so nervous anticipating not only my first interviews in a while, but my first interviews about things like cloud computing and SSRIs, and my first editorial feedback from a major magazine (ouch); so nervous that I couldn’t eat and all I could think about was, Why can’t I have my wine? I NEED IT. But, they were just thoughts, and as I tossed them around, I realized that I have SO been down that road: all wine will do is take away everything I’ve worked the past 18 months to get back, including my motivation and focus. I can’t imagine having to go through that getting-back process again, it was so tedious and hard-won. Plus, um, waking up hung over is something I cannot imagine doing right now, with deadlines to meet and a schedule to maintain–I’m my own boss, no one is hounding me here. In fact, it’s like I’m walking down a straight path now, and I simply cannot veer off. I’m not sure if I’d be able to handle keeping up, mentally, with my pieces and such if I distracted myself even for a few hours with wine.

So, it’s been stressful, but the important thing is that I’m managing it, and that I’m doing it without the crutch of wine. I can always drink after these stories are done, right? Right. But, then there’ll be something else, like another pitch, the personal writing, the long-term commitment that involves staying focused on a book’s breadth of research. In fact, it seems to me that there will always be a good reason NOT to drink. Or, there will never be a good time to waste being drunk or hung over.

And, honestly, after years of drinking precisely because I didn’t have projects, or the courage to start OR follow through on these writing dreams of mine–those two ideas are relief, cool water, opening clouds, a big wide sky. God-send-type stuff. I get it. I really do. No, there will never be a good time to waste being drunk in my life again. Who knew that would be a comfort to me, rather than a sentence, or a diagnosis?

So, on to my work (yes, I took on a bit too much and now have to punch in this afternoon), and a renewed resolve to make it AT LEAST another few weeks (300 days, my next goal, is right around the corner, and then there’s 365…and, it goes on, and on, and on).

Don’t give up before your motivation returns

5 Nov

2:46 pm

So, in getting sober, I’ve realized that there are things about myself that I know. Things that simply make me “me,” that are neither things that I have to accept nor things that I have to change. They are things that just ARE, and these things are OK.

Like, I’ve always been an overachiever. Some of this behavior was maladaptive, but to a certain degree, I was just born this way. I THRIVE off stress, off getting things done. A LOT of people do, I’m not saying I’m special. In fact, I’ve been wondering about this ever since I got sober. Why have I been struggling so much this past year? Well, I’ve been lacking in motivation because I don’t have wine anymore, that’s true, but I’ve also been going against my grain. Why do I need to go, go, go? Why do I like big cities, with all their ambitious people and innovative ideas and commotion and conflict? I don’t know! I just DO. That’s me.

The past few days have been awesome–large to-do lists, lots of information and sources to research, too much to do, all of it competing for my time. I got off on working in environments like this–for years I worked in the startup industry, and when I went back to corporate America, I can look back now and say that’s when I became depressed. When I went back to graduate school and was once again stretched to my limit, I was on top of the world again! Too bad I didn’t know how to manage my stress and my expectations–my “workaholism,” I suppose I could call it.

It’s always been a fine line for me, but in re-reading my journal from this year last night, I can say this much: I was my most enthusiastic after returning from a weekend visit back to NYC; and, I have never been more vexed, in general, than this past year struggling with too little to do and no motivation to do it.

No motivation was a daily thing in my journal, from about March until, well, now. It’s seriously been a theme in my getting sober. It was a constant struggle, and I blogged about it quite a bit. Now? I feel like there’s been some movement, something’s changed. My brain is healing, for real. Chemicals and circuits are getting back in shape. And, I can honestly say that it’s been like a missile landing in my lap, this return of my motivation levels. What a relief.

My focus, my desire to work, and my ability to manage my time–it’s all back, so it seems. I can “parse” information even better than I remember I could. For example, I seem to have learned how to say “Fuck it” to my perfectionist tendency to get lost in the details when reporting, and instead, focus on the bigger picture, the gist of it. What I need to know is who to contact; what I don’t need to know is their field of expertise (that’s why I’m interviewing them), OR–and this is key–whether or not they’re going to think I’m stupid or ill-prepared. That’s none of my business, what they think of me. (And, they simply don’t think of me, is the point. When I was drinking, I was always so concerned with what others were supposedly thinking about me. Ugh.)

It really does seem that it’s happened only within the past several weeks, maybe a month or two at most–along with motivation, I find myself focusing less on the “what if’s” and trying to perfect the outcome, and more on the “why not?” and “just do it.”

I almost gave up. I was so frustrated that I was going to be “brain-dead” forever. It’s been almost 17 months since I started getting sober, so, seeing my focus and motivation needing that long to come back is DEFINITELY a deterrent to me starting to drink again (even in moderation, whatever that means).

These past few weeks, I feel new. Renewed. A version 3.0 of myself. (I was going to say 2.0, but I think at 39, I’ve already had at least one major upgrade, right?)

The point of this post is, don’t give up! It will come. As Carol said on “Walking Dead” on Sunday’s episode (because you never know where you’re going to find sober inspiration!):

How do you not feel afraid? You just fight it and fight it and fight it and then one day, you’re not afraid anymore. We all change.

The problem with achievement

30 Aug

7:18 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lack of motivation, or, My attempt at neuroscience

20 Aug

5:25 pm

Lack of motivation. Bored to tears is not just an expression. Maybe some days you’re simply not meant to get much done? Except, ahem, eating and drinking everything in the house. (Why is it that after quitting drinking, we turn to food and substitute drink? Is there something so hardwired about equating “food substance” or “something that is going into my alimentary canal” with “reward” that we can’t shake it no matter how long and hard we try?)

Today is OK–meh, actually–and I can deal with that. However, I’m having the usual brain fart: I find it difficult to hold my thoughts in form; like food that wants to be vomited up, my thoughts want to come out in fragments that don’t resemble much of anything that makes sense.

Is this writer’s block, or simply something I have to contend with from now on? PAWS gone wild? I’m hoping the latter, but most of the time, my patience wears thin. I don’t have time for this shit.

Once every few days, I take note of my motivation level, which seems to me to be pretty damn low. And, I think I’ve figured it out: maybe for so long I associated EVERYTHING–work and play, life in general–with drinking, now my dopamine circuits can’t (won’t?) fire for anything without the attached reward (wine). It goes almost without saying that that sort of freaks me out, considering that I need to like, eat and work and laugh, whether or not (not) there is wine involved.

I’ve come to the conclusion that “normal” people–and even a lot of drinkers who did not fall as far as I must have–simply cannot understand this. Their dopamine circuits still allow them to desire to do many things, whether or not booze is in the picture. Like, eating, or going to the gym, or working. I was actually vaguely aware of how much I relied on the “reward” of wine in order to motivate myself to do any of these things toward the last few years of my drinking. And then it got worse: I skipped eating altogether; I only worked out in order to both be able to drink more and maintain a modicum of health such that my body could continue to drink more; in the end, the only thing that got me through my often painfully intellectual day was the reward of wine after having gotten through it and, later–it got even worse–the reward of wine DURING said day.

It was a neverending cycle, and I’m not sure how I ended up in its claws OR how I managed to extricate myself. Maybe throwing up a bottle of red wine at 3:30 am and then drinking an entire OTHER bottle before getting up, showering, and getting on the commuter rail by 7:20 am became one of those few-and-far-between memories that could override the need for wine? Uh, maybe.

Dopamine is involved not only in giving you pleasure, but in making you want to seek out pleasure. Motivation to do, or in science speak, to perform behaviors that are associated with pleasure. Now, if EVERYTHING you do–for me it ranged from running to writing to travel to talking on the phone with friends and family–you associate with the reward of drinking, and you place a high level of importance on this reward, eventually your dopamine circuit is only going to fire to motivate you toward these associated things as long as there is the reward of wine. If there is no reward of wine, there is no dopamine, and therefore, no motivation. (I’d like to do some interviews on this, but I think this is the gist of it.)

When the associated behavior/triggers are going out to bars, or hanging out with friends, ditching the wine isn’t the end of the world. But I associated everything with drinking.

Now, I feel no strong urge to do anything. I work because I NEED to, and I run and eat and read and hang out and go swimming and take care of the dogs and plant shit because…I know it’ll make me feel better, eventually. I do love certain things, of course, and living sober is amazing, don’t get me wrong. I just have to think my way into wanting it all, more often than not. Some days, though, all that future focus cannot cover up the present lack of reward. And, what’s worse, I’m afraid (worried) that this new normal might not right itself anytime soon.

With all that in mind, I continue to do and strive, and get about 25 percent of what I want to get done actually done every day. And I’m learning to accept this, and not judge myself. This is the only way, I somewhat resignedly tell myself. You got yourself into this, now you have to (and can) get yourself out. Is there another way, though? Does it have to be this hard? I honestly don’t know…

Anyway, I don’t mind waiting, and right here and now is a pretty good place to take a seat. Happy Week 22 plus 1 day to me! By Saturday, I will have passed my longest record of 158 (almost) days sans booze. Wowie. Thanks to ALL OF YOU, for listening and cheering and empathizing.

I wonder, how long was I running on fumes?

6 May

5:37 pm

Cuz these days, I have no motivation. Sure, I do stuff, I’m planning stuff, but only if charged on sugar and caffeine. And, I could be doing SO much more. The natural spring of ambition I had in college? Good Jesus, that’s over. The kind I had in my mid-20s, when I was spending 12 hours a day working for startups in the Valley? Man, I can’t remember that girl. In my late 20s and early 30s, planning my “escape” to the Big Apple, where I’d then spend 5 more years running around, going to grad school, becoming a new career? I’d be amazed to summon the ghost of that person, let alone an ounce of that sort of oomph.

I just don’t care, is how I feel right now. None of it really matters. I will go, one day, and so will you. And likely, there is no benevolent consciousness waiting to engulf me. I wish there was, but considering how many people believe this, it’s almost a sure bet that it’s going to be nothing like that in the “afterlife.”

I don’t know. It’s almost like, when I gave up drinkin’, I lost my recklessness–a large amount of which HELPED me. Helped me to get jazzed about life. About change. About movement, and action. Helped me in ways big and small to do the job of a journalist, that’s for sure.

I’m waiting, and nothing’s happening. I want another “big adventure,” but honestly, I don’t have much desire to look into it, plan it, and go for it. No reckless energy to fuel an insane sort of curiosity. Maybe it’s called getting old? Middle age?

This…inertia…has been with me all my life, though. This darkness–psychological and physical in symptoms–it’s a constant companion, and all I can say is, some people know it better than others. I’ve learned to deal with the twitchy mind: It doesn’t get better the next day; you MAKE it better. You get through, grit your teeth, hoping that you appear “normal” enough to get by in the outside world. It’s partly why I drank. For me, though, it’s always there, looming WAY louder than wolfie’s “I want wine” voice. I want wine to quiet the booming wind tunnels blowing inside me.

Sigh. I guess I can keep waiting for it to get better, but…man, it’s been a year, and I feel the same as I always did, only with more acceptance around this mentality when it strikes (which seems to be often, to varying degrees, these days).

The dogs have it easy, I assume; maybe, though, they, too, are bored with life? As an old friend once said to me, “Well, it’s a good thing life is short.” Isn’t it.

Just a note to say…17 weeks sober and rockin’ on

8 Feb

11:06 pm

17 weeks (119 days) yesterday. And counting… 😉

And, which I’ll write about tomorrow, I don’t feel possessed anymore by the illusion that drinking will “make it better.” HOLY CRAP! Faith, is all I can say, is the only thing that got me to this point. I’m glad I didn’t drink the past few weeks, I sure wanted to. I’m glad I stuck it out because, you know what? I’m seeing subtle–yet hugely impacting–changes in my attitude toward work.

I feel motivated, and I have done nothing consciously to change–my healing brain is doing all the work, I think. The other day, my spinal analysis doctor told me (well, reminded me) that the body, and especially the spine, will heal and regulate its healing ON ITS OWN. Sure, it needs help when it’s overwhelmed (like, back problems and disease), but in essence, we don’t have to do anything but let it do what it was meant to do for us. That’s pretty miraculous, actually.

I feel like that’s what’s happening with me, now–FINALLY. I’ve been feeling so impossibly frustrated by my lack of ambition the past six months (well, since I got sober), but now, I see that with continuous, subtle enhancements to my mood, my stability of mind, and my focus (i.e., my head is not filled with regret about what I did while drunk OR cravings for wine around every turn)–anything is possible. Maybe even getting back to where I was: accomplished, energetic, confident.

I have a road race tomorrow–5-something miles. Oy. AND, I have to get up at about 5 am to make it to the starting line by 7. At least my fear of getting up that early SO trumps the small it’s-Friday-I-deserve-a-glass-of-wine voice in my head that there is no question about what to do next: go to bed.

Thanks for your support, sober friends. I could not have gotten here without you!

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