Tag Archives: regret

Why we binge

29 Mar

1:16 pm

So, it’s been almost two whole weeks since my sober “birthday,” and while I felt (feel) proud and capable and free, the usual stuff continues to come up: worrying about my motivation levels crapping out on me and then, not being able to earn a living; worrying about the wedding in May, where I’m going to have to see my brother and his girlfriend; wanting to drink, surprisingly, out of boredom, out of a general sense of, OK, Now what? The usual stuff is still there, and while I feel much more balanced and able to deal with it, I still do want to drink. More like, I want to have ONE glass of red wine after a hot shower–like, a bubble bath for my insides. But then I remember the million reasons not to, and I let the fantasy go.

Maybe I simply need to set a new goal. Another year? Le sigh. I’ll say it: this “sobriety” thing is getting boring. In quotes because, sometimes, I just don’t think I NEED to be sober. I don’t think I “am an alcoholic.” I used to binge, but…that was out of hand, circumstances sucked, it was a bad time in my life, right? The problem is, I know in my heart that a sacrifice will have to be made on my part if I decide to start drinking again: if I start USING (yes, using) alcohol as reward, as fix, as “bubble bath for my insides,” eventually it will morph into needing it–or at least, feeling disappointed when I can’t have it. And, that’s a prison of the mind. One which I never want to be sentenced to again.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately–more clearly, indeed–about why we binge.

Most of us understand what we mean when we say, “a case of the fuck-it’s.” Fuck it. FUCK IT! I can’t hold back; I can’t hold on; I can’t hold up; I can’t repress, restrict, be good, be appropriate, care. I DON’T WANT TO.

I don’t want to…ANYMORE.

We drink because of this self-imposed “anymore.” We need a break from all that…holding in, holding on, holding above; out; away.

All this time, I’ve been telling myself the story of me: I can’t control myself, I am a binge eater, a binge drinker. I have no self-control.

What was really happening was the opposite. I was CONSTANTLY controlling myself, holding myself back, doing what I hated, not saying or doing or feeling what I believed was “too much,” or “too revealing.” I was repressing feelings, restricting emotions. I was, literally, not allowing myself to eat during the day–of course, I binged when it got too exhausting, or irritating, or I got just plain hungry. I was dabbling in that by the time I was in middle school; it ramped up to full-on bulimia by the time I went to college. I fixed that…only to have it come back in the form of binge drinking.

I think when we binge drink, we feel that particular remorse of “letting go” when we “really should have kept our drinking in order” more intensely than others. And that serves to feed the mentality that makes us want to binge in the first place–oh, hey, I’m flawed, I fucked up again, I can’t control myself, I suck. It seems that there are a lot of drinkers who never berate themselves for “over-drinking.” I think we feel such deep remorse not because we are overindulgent, but because our ideas of indulgence are off. Yes, we are “over-indulging.” However, why is that, in and of itself, such a terrible thing?

It’s a bad thing if you’re always monitoring yourself, and worrying about what others are thinking.

Why would loving someone–or being loved by someone–be a form of self-indulgence? Why would having sex with whomever I want be indulgent? Why would working a job that doesn’t make my brain hurt, eating enough food, walking instead of running–why is that considered by me to be indulgent? We restrict, and we repress–I was afraid to be expressive and therefore, I had to hold myself in all day. Of course it feels good to finally say, I’m just going to fucking DRINK now and not stop until I feel like it!

I think this is learned behavior that can, fortunately, be un-learned. It’s like, we act like children and throw tantrums. The problem is, there is no adult in the room, let alone a parent. Most of the time, we are very lucky when anyone helps us out of our drunken mess.

Back when I first got sober, my counselor hit that nail on the head during one of our sessions when she asked me, What do you like about your day? Uh, nothing. And, could it be that you are rebelling at night, when you drink? Uh, yeah. Maybe. Duh. Of course. And, going a little deeper, I saw that I am not an overindulgent, selfish slug, but someone who is the opposite in her daily life–to a fault, exhausting my resources trying to “carry the weight of the world” when no one asked me to, when no one wanted to be forced to feel grateful. I know that my behavior was learned, and dysfunctional. But, it wasn’t because I lacked self-control. What I lacked was self-respect, and, well, balance. And treats. And love.

During a food or drink binge, my most basic goals seem to be this: releasing (of emotion, of personality that I have been holding in); soothing (the irritability of having to “keep it sucked in all day”); erasing (zoning out, not having to pay attention, not having to “be on,” not having to work or parse information or create). I’ve said it before, but I used to drink so that I couldn’t work–write in my free time, basically. I was afraid of not only failing, but also, having to confront that maybe I didn’t want to write in my free time, that maybe I wasn’t good enough, that maybe I would have to accept that taking a break was necessary, not a waste of time.

So, why we binge? It’s complicated. And, the more we do binge, the more we compromise our innate capacity to put it into perspective. In other words, don’t get down on yourself, and, find other ways to narrow in on that much-needed releasing, self-soothing, and zoning out. Easier said than done.

Happy Saturday, all!

The hauntings of Santa Muerte

26 Oct

3:09 pm

Hmm. Nothing all that profound about today. Just another day in “paradise.” Correction: just another SOBER day in paradise, which begins with me waking up not hung over! I swear, it never fucking gets old. EVER. I am grateful every morning for not having a hangover. EVERY morning. And, the longer I’m sober, the more accessible the memory of my last drunk (or one of my later hangovers) becomes; I seem to be able to remember it more clearly, breathe in every moment of that wretched feeling as if it were yesterday.

Today, though, I want to talk about hauntings. Of things past, things done. I have many, and of all the days of my life, all the events–these drunken shenanigans only make up a very small percent.  A miniscule amount. Yet. YET. Man, do they take up SO MUCH space in my brain.

And, I can’t seem to let them go. Forget about them. Relegate them to the back burner, so that all the awesome memories of amazing things I’ve done in my life can take the front, can actually be remembered and serve as springboards in the present moment. That’s the sad irony of all this navel-gazing, I suppose, or maybe it’s simply the nature of the beast: we ruminate on all the stupid, shitty, god-awful things we did drunk, and they make up our mental landscape, affecting who we are NOW and how we behave HERE. I am, for some reason, focused on the miniscule 1 percent, which obscures just how bright and amazing the other 99 percent is. Hmm.

I have a red boa draped over my desk, as decoration and distraction. Or…is it to remind myself of what I did, to keep it within reach so that I NEVER FORGET JUST HOW BAD I WAS? It was two years ago, the last Halloween I “celebrated,” and let me tell you what happened. I was to fly to LA to meet a long-time friend for the weekend. It was supposed to be relaxed, fun, an escape. Too bad I started off the trip with a HUGE night drinking alone in my apartment–per fucking usual. When dawn came and the wine was gone, I was screaming drunk; and the utter dread and sickness of withdrawal–coming down SUCKS–was threatening to set in. NO, somewhere deep inside said. I am not done yet. I am not ready to stop. And, I didn’t.

To avoid the “night ending”–losing the buzz, dealing with what was surely going to be a suicidal hangover–I drank more. I opened another bottle and proceeded to down the whole thing, both while I was getting ready and en route to the airport in the cab. Once there, my mood picked up, I got my second wind, and though I was THIS close to being drunky-drunk, everything seemed clearer. I got to my terminal and downed a few beers–beer couldn’t hurt, right? It would hydrate me, I lied.

The plane took off and I had an “amazing” seat-mate, some married asshole who was flirting with me and drinking with me (wine for breakfast anyone?). We had the most “marvelous” conversation, and by the time our flight touched down about an hour later, I had definitely gone from drunker to drunkest. Of course, I was STILL hanging on, desperate for the party not to end, so I convinced this guy to have one more drink with me–another bar, another airport.

Then (finally?), I blacked out. DUH. Piecing together the texts and my shoddy memory of how this scenario was resolved, I concluded the following: I must have been stumbling around LAX for at least two hours blacked out; my friend had texted numerous times that he was waiting for me and would be leaving VERY soon if my ass didn’t show itself; I remember my friend heaving me into the passenger seat of his car and driving home; I was slouched next to him, and it was only then that I registered that my jeans were soaked from top to bottom–my entire pants were drenched in urine. I had pissed myself, and I had been walking around LAX like this for two fucking hours, and people must have noticed, including my friend. OH, GOD. Oh god oh god oh god.

Cue the remorse that haunts me to this day, that prods at my soul, begging to come in; that ends up saturating my gut with its daily drip-drip-dripping.

I slept at his place until about 5 that afternoon–the whole day, gone–while he went out and did some errands. What must he have been thinking? Fortunately, he is one of the forgivers. While he was quite upset (for a long time after that weekend, I imagine), we made the best of the night. I will never forget his stare, wary, as we swayed together in our costumes at some bar in LA and I drank again–this time, three small glasses of wine just to take the edge off and make me feel somewhat normal again. That’s where the boa comes in: I went as the Mexican goddess of death, or Santa Muerte, and the boa was to give it a festive, flowery feel.

Now? That fucking boa above my desk HAUNTS me. While I definitely felt like death that night (I was still mightily hung over, shaking even), I was riding on utter gratitude for my friend–and, that “lovey dovey” feeling that you get when you are coming off the booze, grateful to be alive, thankful beyond recognition to have made it through yet another hangover. Now? I look up and see that boa, and it makes my entire inner body shudder slightly every time I do.

So, why not take it down? I can’t. That day still haunts me. And, I’m actually OK with that. I think I actually NEED the constant reminder of both how bad it got–I feel somewhat ill just remembering it again in such detail–and how far I’ve come. I’ve long since made amends with my friend, who never held it against me anyway. I’ve been getting sober for over 16 months, and I’ve been sober for a continuous 221 days. I was sober last Halloween. I was sober last Christmas, and New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day, and Easter, and my birthday, and the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. I will be sober this Halloween, too.

Yet, I have ghosts. That incident haunts me, one of a seeming-eternity of nights (and days) blacked out and left for dead. And, the least scary thing about it was my costume. Santa Muerte is a “personification of death…associated with healing, protection, and safe delivery to the afterlife.” Is it not worth noting that it was I who chose to dress up as a goddess of death? Or, that this very same goddess also embodies the afterlife? Maybe Santa Muerte was simply looking out for me that night, and all the others, too, waiting for the old me to finally die so that she could transport the new me to a better place?

When do you know you’re an alcoholic? or, Blackout hell

31 Aug

1:59 am

I’m still not sure I know what “alcoholic” means, and I would be the first to say, Bup bup bup, not alcoholic, just a problem drinker. A binge drinker. A binge drinker who probably drank on average 5 out of every 7 days last year (always wine, sometimes beer, rarely hard booze), blacked out 99% of those days, and well, has had so many “near misses” as well as “misses” that it’s hard to even go back and revisit them.

Well, I could, and I do, every second of every day.

Let’s see…

Blacking out and screaming at strangers in bars, on the street, on the phone, etc. etc. etc.
Blacking out and having blacked out sex and then, after somehow managing to blame the offending party, getting into a blacked out brawl with him only to come to as I’m hitting the sidewalk — he pushed me down, I broke my arm, and I dealt with it by lying at work (I said I fell down some stairs at a party), not telling a soul (including my family), and putting in nearly 3 years of rehab to correct a shoulder that seems to have been permanently damaged/altered/tweaked
Blacking out and yelling at friends
Blacking out and yelling at cops
Blacking out and yelling at bartenders
Blacking out and calling one of the said bartenders on my phone in a blacked out rage, only to be banned from the bar the next time I tried to drink there and not even remembering what I said
Blacking out and yelling at cabbies
Blacking out and yelling at my CEO — my fricking CEO — at my work Christmas party — my fricking work Christmas party…and topping it off by kicking the door of the cab that he called for me and having my co-workers have to manhandle me and push me into it
Blacking out and being arrested for said yelling at a cabbie that very same night, spending a blacked out night in jail being a screaming mess, a second day (fighting a withdrawal panic attack) and night and then another day and evening in a jail cell with 25 other women waiting for the judge to hear my case
Getting fired for missing work for said two whole days (as well as um, yelling at my CEO and kicking the door of the cab he called for me)
Blacking out a mere two weeks later on rum at a [alternative religious] ceremony in [beautiful island], managing to NOT lose a tooth as I fell, headfirst in my blackout, onto a cement block in an outhouse; screaming at the man who was trying to kiss me as I sat on his lap; having to sport a bruise on my forehead the size of Massachusetts for the next several weeks, after enduring the shame of creeping down to breakfast the following day and forcing myself to look at my host mother and say I was sorry (as well as listen to the repeated admonishments of the house girls, “Il faut se controller” = You need to control yourself)…

Shall I go on? Oh, let’s not forget blacking out and driving up the interstate for oh, at least 45 minutes(?), only to “come to” heading south on a ramp road, crashing my rental car into a pole on the side of the road and demolishing the entire front bumper, including both headlights (two Good Samaritans found me and one, who happened to be a friend of Bill’s, drove me home, scolding me the entire way)…

And what about “exiting” a blackout in ghetto of [cold west coast city], screaming at two dudes whose apartment I had just left (apparently we were hanging out, but did we do anything else?)…?

Or, going OUT blacked out, having no recollection of hours of time spent drinking and dancing, coming to in someone’s bed on the other side of the city, stumbling home still blazing drunk…?

Or, having a three-way whose most memorable turn included being driven home by the nearly 60-year-old Scottish dude who may or may not have had sex with me (I don’t remember)…?

Shall I go on?

I could. On and on and on. The only reason I can write this all down is because I’ve kept endless journals to deal with the emotional aftermath, the self-loathing — I could have killed someone, including myself — and the confusion over where “blackout me” ends and “me” begins.

I think, in my case, the anger stems from a childhood of feeling overshadowed, conforming to a mold, never feeling like I was heard or good enough. (The random sex stems from…lack of self-esteem?) I used to binge eat, which became a huge problem for me to overcome in my early 20s, and that, I discovered, was more a response to anxiety/panic than body image issues. So, I figure, drinking is like binge eating in that it serves a purpose to quell my feelings of panic; and when someone triggers me/pisses me off during a blackout, my deep-seated panic transmutes to anger. Rage, actually.

Or, I just go willy-nilly apeshit. One of the two.

I’m still trying to process it, after all this time. It never goes away.

Ten years now — it’s been since about 2002 that I started drinking wine and doing things like pounding the shit out of cell phones, computer keyboards, laptops (yes, I’ve lost several Mac laptops due to killing their hard drives with a solid thump of my fist onto the notebook’s keypad); drunk dialing 30 calls in a row to an ex; writing crazy-nasty IMs and emails to people, some of whom have written me off (I don’t blame them). Maybe I am the person in the blackout, and everything else is just a subconscious, deeply embedded lie. Maybe not.

In any case, I don’t miss any of that shit, and I don’t want any of it to ever happen again. Yet…how can I forget? And, HOW ON EARTH can I forgive myself, if I manage to forget? All of this, the piles of horrible things I’ve done and said and let happen — they’ll never go away. They nibble at me. Some take bites now and then.

So, along with the sober calm comes deep sadness. I can’t change what happened, what others think of me, whether or not I will be forgiven. I have to move on, hold my head up, continue to strive in my career, and simply evolve.

Violet Tempest

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