Tag Archives: sense of purpose

Who am I now?, or, the art of no longer living in denial

18 Jun

12:10 pm

(I wasn’t going to post this, but I’m deciding to do so because, well, remaining sober means necessarily embracing it. And, Wolfie-boy and his ugly mange-y paw, Denial, can ruin the best of intentions. So, in an effort to embrace sobriety–and hang onto it in spite of Wolfie breathing down my neck (Oh, come ON, you’ve gone far enough, you can drink on this trip)–I’m reminding me (and you) of how I got here.)

I have to admit, I thought I was “different.” All these drunks at meetings, saying stuff like, “I had no idea who I was when I first got sober.” Pfft, please. That’s not me. *I* knew who I was, didn’t I? Don’t I? I know who I am, right? In FACT, I was the same person back then…except I drank. I still am that person, I just don’t drink.

Right? Riiiiight.

Anyway, I have accomplished some shit in my life, but one day last year, with my issues coming into crystal clear focus, I realized that it might have all been pretty much fueled by wine. And that hit me in the gut like a punching bag. Oof. Really? Have all my successes and achievements–and failures, even missteps–been a direct result of my drinking? Not in the, I needed wine to do this, kind of way, but in the, Wine was always in the picture, kind of way. And it did, indeed, allow me to do certain things. My sense of motivation–maybe a frenetic one, looking back–CAME FROM THE WINE. Sure, my brain is wired to accomplish, to want to achieve; but, in the later years, especially from about 2004 until now, was it the “wine brain” that was propelling me to do all the crazy, caution-to-the-wind shit that I did? Or, was that me?

Wait, who am I?

As I prepare for this volunteer trip (for which I, gulp, leave on Thursday), I have to admit: I have NO IDEA how to do this sober. I’ve never done it sober. I’ve gone to the country where I’m going three times already, but I’ve never seen the place through the lens of a sober person. That is to say, the past three times I’ve gone to where I’m going, I drank–like, drinky-drank-DRUNK drank!

The third time (four years ago), though, not so much. And, here’s what’s “hilarious” about that: for the past few years, I’ve been telling myself that I didn’t drink *as much* on the third trip because I “wasn’t really an alcoholic” and that I just needed to find something purposeful to fill my hole.

What really happened, I’m remembering more clearly now, is that I was AFRAID OF KILLING MYSELF based on how ridiculously I drank the first two times.

Just to semi-recap: on the first trip (over five years ago), I drank every night, till the end (3 am), and then had to get up every morning at 7 am for work (manual labor–somehow the hangovers weren’t so bad when you were sweating them out). I drank WHILE ON malaria meds, and then WHILE HAVING A BAD REACTION to said meds, such that I was in a state of acute panic/anxiety for a period of 36 hours at one point. It was a nightmare; literally, a waking nightmare. I completely blamed this reaction on the chloroquine as being an older anti-malarial that I shouldn’t have taken based on my medical history of depression and anxiety. Now, however, I have to ask myself, Could it have been the probably-dangerous combination of a shit-ton of booze plus the meds? (tilts heads in mock wonder)

On the second trip, a year later, it only got worse! I got SO drunk one night at a party (thrown by and for my host mother’s family), that I kissed an old guy, got SUPER-emotional and crazy and was yelling at people, then, managed to pass out on the outhouse seat. I fell forward onto something hard and flat with the full weight of my noggin, bashing my forehead so hard that I not only had a huge welt up there, but gave myself a black eye (days later, after the blood drained down). The host mother was chagrined, to say the least, and there was at least one person who bid me an official farewell the next morning (even though I was there for another several days).

I mean, these are just a FEW stories of how I drank there. No, I wasn’t the only alcoholic, and no, others experienced a lot worse consequences (one guy fell off a roof and died), BUT…

It never seemed to click, how exhausting and dangerous all this was–year after year after year. Once the hangover wore off and the bad behavior, forgotten, I simply moved on and pretended that nothing needed to change. Or, at least nothing needed to change *that* much.

This is stuff that makes my (bobble)head spin, like someone threw a brick at my face–how could I have lived in such denial? Not only of what I was doing–and how I was using alcohol–but of how I was lying to myself about what I was doing?! Something must have stuck (was it the outhouse incident?) because, fully realizing that it would be dangerous to binge drink like that again, I managed to control my drinking on the third trip (the dehydration factor also helped).

Fast forward to now, and I seem to have forgotten about all of this! Like, I’ve been telling myself that I didn’t drink heavily the last time because I didn’t need to, didn’t feel like it, realized that this work filled my unmet needs–no, I wasn’t really an alcoholic at home, I was just empty with want and my unmet needs.

Yes, unfortunately, I was an alcoholic at home. I drank and bad shit happened, but I kept drinking. It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

All this being said, this time around, I am not going to drink because, well, I’m sober. Right? I’ve thought about it, of course: would it really be that bad to do the two-beers-a-night thing again? I’m sure I could do it, and might even want to. BUT…a part of me really wants to see this world, have this experience, live out this dream…through the prism of a sober mind. And this, somehow, seems much more important and real than all my doubts and fears (of which I have many, namely: Will this place have lost its romantic appeal now that I’m sober? Will this idealized reality–which I could maintain as a drinker–simply become mundane? Will my supposed “dream job,” which I’ll be doing there (as a volunteer), turn out to be something I really don’t like, find to be an actual pain-in-the-ass without the nightly reward and reinforcement of wine/beer?).

You know, I am no different from all those “people in AA meetings who don’t know themselves.” And, that actually makes me feel hopeful. I am living this thing now, for real, and that must mean…progress? I sure hope so!

Well, I might sneak in one more post before I take off, but if not, travel well, my sober friends, and I’ll see you in a little bit (will post from there, but it might be random and/or sporadic).

My drinking past: a reminder

15 Mar

1:05 pm

Not to go into it in too much detail–to protect you from wanting to strangle me, and to protect me from my head exploding–but I went through my drinking past the other day. Yes, again. I wrote out all the drinking shit/stuff/shenanigans/problems/troubles/shambles that occurred since 2007. Why 2007? I don’t know; a friend emailed me and was waxing nostalgic about our “amazingly fun” (my words, but hers were even loftier, as if she had forgotten the Hell that I would go through) drinking binges at this one bar we discovered that spring, which would become our “go-to” or “local.” And which is where, over the next few years, my worst drunken mishaps would happen.

And, that got me to going into my past again, and realizing after I had written it all down in a text file, how draining, how sad, how wasteful, but yet…how painfully instructive it all was. Mostly, I saw just how wending wine was in my life–threaded into every nook and cranny. It was not just a part of my life; it became a driving force, a mitigating factor. It was, in essence, what everything else revolved around, and worse, sort of determined how everything else went, or turned out, or happened. In my worst of moods, I think back and hate myself for not seeing it, and my family and friends for not only allowing themselves the luxury of denial but also, for letting it happen out of ego, or spite, or resentment. In my best, like I said, I take it as a painful, yet instructive, part of my past.

Now? I’m pretty damn relieved to have stopped drinking; stopped the madness; to be making my choices, steering my ship, with a sober mindset; which is to say, my choices and driving force is about my essence as a person, about what I want, about who I am, about who I really want to be, about who I really want to be with and what I really want to accomplish.

I’ll be turning 40 in June, and realistically, I have a good 30 years left to do shit. That shit better be well chosen, you know? I can’t afford to waste any more time–and spirit energy–on drinking; on wrapping my life around a rotten core. On making life choices based on how it will or will not affect my drinking, and vice versa!

I hate to say it, but now, I’m actually living my worst fear. Quitting drinking has allowed me to confront what I was running from, and professionally, I think my worst fear was writing–working as a freelance writer! Which is what I’m doing now. As I was lying in bed last night, I realized that it was/is my biggest fear. I drank to avoid writing and then I drank to forget that I was running from what I should be doing. And, while I often tell myself, Enough is enough, you should simply give up and do something else–this is what I have to do. At least for now. Which, in a big way, has kept me sober.

I tell myself things like, I won’t drink until I get a story published here; or, until I get a story pitch accepted via THIS route of query. (I’m a biologist at heart, so I can’t help but leave no stone unturned, meaning, no estimates, and no shortcuts…which is the God damned mentality that made (makes?) me want to drink, but hey, we can’t strip our core overnight.) So, until I do this, and do that (pitch here, write this, volunteer there), I can’t drink. And, this is basically the hardest, scariest thing I’ve ever done, in my own mind; so, if and when I get over this hump, maybe I’ll drink then. Maybe I’ll be able to afford the time spent and the money wasted getting drunk instead of working on my life. Not yet, though.

And, that’s been good enough. So far. Lately, though, that drinking past of mine has come up again, and in realizing so clearly how drinking LED my life–it wasn’t something to fill the time, a diversion, an afterthought, as I told myself for years–well, it makes me really, really, REALLY not want to go back there. I mean, I COULD drink, but man, I’ve already been through that wringer. I’ve tried it all before. I’ve done it from every fucking angle. And frankly, I think I hit bottom. I think this is what they mean. YES, I could get that buzz again, and I could then be like, Woo hoo, my life is back to normal…

…but, THIS is normal now. And, that buzz comes with not just a bad hangover the next day, or the sober day count being set back to zero, or a sense of “Oh, I can drink now” and the obsession slowly but SURELY coming back; but, that buzz also now comes with my entire drinking past. That huge text file of a million words covering all the drunks and hangovers, and scraps of a night out, shrapnel of people and places and things–it’s just not worth it. As my sense of denial has disappeared in the face of remembering more accurately, that buzz HAS BECOME not worth it. So very much not worth it.

It pains me to admit it, it really does. And, I know I will continue to struggle with the IDEA of drinking again, of it being fun and a release and a refuge; but really, that is the old myth of me. I am coming into the new myth, and starting to believe it. Was it always there, lurking in the shadow? Or, have I torn down the old statue, and there’s a hole waiting for the new one–which I am building, and will erect in its place soon? It’s like changing religions, coming to believe in a new myth; and it takes time. It takes moving a boulder, inside and out. But, you do it, and you come to understand that you can change myths, you can tell a new story to yourself about yourself, you can become new. You don’t have to live in the drinking past, but you can use it as a tool to build your new statue.

THREE MORE DAYS, people! Till I turn one. Woot woot! I am planning a little get-together (at a wine bar, no less–no worries, I will not be imbibing, it’s just a really cute little place with lots of ambiance), and…I feel really good about that. Like, a birthday party that you weren’t going to give two shits about and now that you’ve decided to celebrate YOU, you’re at peace with that and looking forward to it.

It’s the end of the world as we know it…and I feel fine. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now I chase the reprieve, not the buzz

8 Jul

11:56 am

There was a very brief period–an interlude–either around the time I quit or right before or after, where I didn’t want to drink. I mean, Didn’t Want To Drink. I mean, no idea what drinking was. It was like, I had never drunk, so I didn’t even know that there was something to turn to! It lasted for five hours, to be exact, and it was the most enlightening experience I’ve had to date with regard to cravings–they are not invariably hardwired forever into our brain circuitry.

It was like I had been transported back to my childhood, when there was nothing to do and nothing to try to do. There was nothing to think about, mull over, ruminate on; nothing to escape from, nowhere to go anyway. Life just was, and you just lived it. And it was Good. Good in the way that you don’t know it’s good: the world is round, spinning on its axis, inside the meteor belt, millions upon millions of planets and solar systems and galaxies and clusters of galaxies doing their thing. I could look up at the Milky Way (my dad was a sailor, a merchant marine to be exact, and he relished pointing out the stars) and go, Wow, and Ooh, and Aah, and these were my only thoughts. No, What am I supposed to be doing with myself? No, Arg, I don’t know, and I’m such a loser because I don’t know! No wanting to escape, to be relieved of the responsibility. For what? To be alive? To figure out the meaning of life?

I think when we stop drinking, a lot of us turn to AA. This isn’t a bad thing, but it forces us to focus on our “problem” and our “issues.” To step up and embrace our “responsibilities.” Aside from the fact that I believe in rehabilitating my relationship to (with?) wine, I’ve come to see this as one of the main reasons I stopped going to meetings. We drank, a lot of us, because we had too many responsibilities. We drank, a lot of us, because our egos had already been crushed–by ourselves!

I’ve spent so much of my time trying to “save the world” (in my head, at last)–overachieving, reaching and grasping for what can only be called validation from the outside. And, when our society (Western?) is built upon this ideal, who hasn’t been there? We are socialized to believe that we have to work hard, have kids and sacrifice, play even harder; compete, judge, and compare; self-improve; and yes, even figure out the meaning of life. Um…OK.

I grew up an introvert. I grew up the twin of an extrovert. I have always been artistic, and therefore, likely pre-wired to be self-centered, ambitious, and controlling. I have had to work not on feeling empathetic, but expressing empathy, mainly because I am shy. I have had big problems in my life with being ashamed, secretive, and self-loathing. Depression followed, but that has, I know now, alternated between being influenced by my innate character to being influenced by my choices and my reaction to those choices.

Without going into too much detail, I drank because I could not express myself, would not allow myself to express myself; I drank because it assuaged my depression; I drank because it stifled my existential panic; I drank to procrastinate being creative, which is an expression of fear (of failure, of success, who knows?). I drank because I felt excluded by my introversion, by my smarts, by my androgyny. I drank I drank I drank.

The point is, didn’t we all? Is a loathing of self inseparable from being human? Don’t we all chase a buzz–the buzz of getting what we want, of “fixing” our desire? Mine happened to be a desire to be more comfortable in my own skin. We are shy, or embarrassed–why? I have no idea where my discomfort comes from; my brother never had it. If he did, it was minimal. Maybe it’s an irrational hatred, archetypal? I don’t know.

What I guess I’m trying to say is, instead of chasing a fleeting “buzz” called my “fix” on wine, now I’m striving–chasing sounds lame–for that reprieve, that interlude of light, of fancy, of play. I REMEMBER that it exists. I remember not wanting wine, and I remember not associating wine with reward, or pleasure, or escape, or reprieve. In fact, if there is anything that I would put outside the realm of ordinary, it would be this experience. It was, I have to say, like God rained some fairy dust down on me and allowed me to see it–to remind me that once upon a time, wine wasn’t a part of my world. And, I did just fine. Can I do just fine again? Yes. YES.

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 alcoholโ€”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?

Bored with sobriety

15 Jun

6:02 pm

I’ve got 90 days coming up tomorrow, and honestly, ehhhhhhh. (I care, but not that much; and, hopefully I’ll be in a better mood, and better able to exist in the certain type of denial that sobriety takes; to enjoy, congratulate, relish. We’ll see.)

Right now, sobriety feels endless. Boring. I have a bunch to do, but don’t want to do any of it. It’ll be there tomorrow, unfortunately, just like my sobriety. Sure, there are few cravings; however, no number of chunks of time or chips from meetings will change that it seems to be an endless stream of…boring. I mean, it’s the same thing, day in and night out. I’ve gotten USED to feeling good, albeit, I’ve never been this chunky around my waist. Somehow, all that wine kept me thin.

I’m bored with sobriety, and I can’t deny it! Would drinking spice things up? I guess I could try to go out and socialize sober, but I really don’t have it in me. In an all-caps kind of way. I miss the escape; I want it. I NEED it.

So, it’s another Saturday night, and I’m on. On all the time. And it’s tiring. All the “Oh, this feels GREAT to be walking home sober”‘s never quite make up for the energy expended just getting through the situation, making myself believe–whispering it over and over and over again in my ear–that it’s better this way and I don’t need to drink and if I did, shit would go down… It’s mentally exhausting because I know it’s not true. Drinking WOULD make it better, at least temporarily. Drinking WOULD give me something to anticipate after a long list of things to do, most of which involve cerebral pursuits; as it stands, it’s all willpower, passing my days reading and writing and then–nothing to take the edge off. There is still more thinking, or not thinking; I’m still aware of it all. And, it never adds up. There is still a hole in the sky called the sun, the passing of time, my own sense of base purposelessness as a human being. Of course, I do have purpose, but I guess I don’t have faith that it’ll carry me through to…what? The other side? An arrival, a final Ahh, now this is IT, it ALL makes sense?

And, I can’t pretend that NEVER going out, and hitting the sack after SNL (I NEVER watched SNL on a Saturday night; the last time I watched SNL was in high school, when I didn’t drink!) isn’t simply getting old! Haha. I mean, I know it’s my fault, but this is how my sobriety has panned out–I can’t imagine it’s that much different for others. Anyway, old. Boring old. Old boring. And, worse is that there’s something much bigger (worse?) about it, I can’t seem to articulate: perhaps it’s the sense that after all the thinking and probing and clearing out, this IS all there is. This is it. Is it?

In fact, it beats me down thinking that I have to be this way–on and present–for the rest of my life. I give up to being on and present! Yet napping and working and reading and EVERYTHING else I do to get through the days is, I know, just a cover. All the tiny gifts and pep talks are just…workarounds. Something deeper–and sad to the point of being neutral, like a huge ocean that is both wonderful and jarringly impersonal–lurks; I cannot deny this.

So, here I sit, wondering what to do with my night. Options galore, but none really matter, at the very end of the day, now do they? I know they don’t, but I have to keep telling myself that they do. I know I want to drink, but I have to keep telling myself that I don’t.

One day at a time (echo echo echo)…

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.

Reaching out, or, I’m not the only human who has human thoughts?

4 May

9:29 pm

I had some dark thoughts today. I woke up bored, and it just spiraled down from there.

Yes, it’s possible to simply wake up bored. It was hot, I didn’t sleep well, blah blah blah. I then proceeded to sit out on the porch, contemplating just how much “life sucks.” Thoughts like, I’m ready to go, What do I have to live for?, etc.

For most of my years here, in my Human Skin on Planet Earth, I simply did not share these thoughts. Of course, I’m the ONLY person to ever have existential angst, right? And on top of it, despite all my competing thoughts, screaming at me how amazing I’ve got it right about now; I couldn’t lift my head out of the vortex.

This time, I decided to share these thoughts, hoping that it might help. (I was also thinking about drinking, starting to plan it already, and I knew that I had to do SOMETHING else.) So, I emailed Belle, one of my sober pen pals, and then I told my boyfriend about them.

“I’m ready to go.” He was like, OK. “There’s really nothing left for me to do here, in this life.” He was like, Are you going to take the dogs with you? Hmm…I had to think about that.

We all have bad days, I guess. What’s different–and a relief–is that I chose to reach out and share. Even though I was pretty ashamed of these thoughts; as in, what’s wrong with me that I have these thoughts, and worse, what’s even more wrong with me that I can’t control these thoughts, usher them out, and think more positively? I tried to meditate, and that did help a bit.

The afternoon progressed better, though. We went for a longass snorkel at a very local (read: backyard) beach, and then I went to the store and got a bunch of stuff for my upcoming master cleanse (I’ll get to that in a different post). On the errands front, I booked a trip back to that cold east coast city I came from (to investigate that new graduate program I mentioned), took care of my IRA (finally), and…well, you get the point. Moving forward.

I still don’t feel 100 percent awesome right now, but I think that has a lot to do with my master cleanse “prep,” which I may or may not go through with. In this depressed state of mind, I’m not looking forward to staying sober, I have to admit, but onward, fair Unicorn with Sparkly Teeth–to 7 weeks this coming Monday, then 10, then 12, then 90 days…then?

You have to go through it to get through it

30 Dec

9:39 pm

I REALLY wanted to drink last night. REALLY, REALLY, REALLY. Frustration, disappointment in self, ennui, fear of the past and future, sadness… I spent the day on the couch, feeling ill, too, which only contributed to this pent-up bad juju.

A fog of desire, that’s what it was. A fog of desire to drink. To drown it out, drown it away.

I used to drink when I felt the way I felt last night. OH, YES, I did. NO WAY IN HELL was I going to let that pimple come to a head. What I mean is, I would shut down the emerging thoughts before they fully formed, effectively transfiguring them into something other, something nebulous–something drunken. I would drink, then weep, yet, I never understood exactly what I was crying about; I knew I felt bad, but I never let myself think the real thoughts, only the drunken, fake ones.

I really wanted to drink the past two days, actually. I’ve just felt low energy, depressed, frustrated. Numerous points, but always the same theme: I’m not doing enough with my talents, I’m wasting valuable time. What’s it all mean? Why create, produce, leave behind, anyway? I’ve forgotten most of my life (I mean, I don’t specifically remember a lot of the hours I’ve been alive, y’know?), what’s the point of creating new memories? (LOL–SUCH a negative thought!) And, of course, the next thought had to come: In fact, what a SHITE thing to do, to have a kid and subject him/her to what I’m feeling and thinking right now, which HAS to cross most people’s minds now and then, right? RIGHT? And on and on. We rented “Ted,” and that was pretty funny, so the night wasn’t ALL BAD, of course! Yet, the whirring continued until my boyfriend went to bed and I was left on the couch (still), wishing I had bought myself a treadmill for Christmas. Or a sledge hammer!

I’ve always felt pressured to accomplish, achieve, create. It’s become an addiction, I know, perceiving my reality this way and reacting to it, usually negatively. However, being sober–getting sober, the process of, actually–has allowed me to begin to see that NO, I don’t have to keep doing what I’ve always done! I have a choice in how I see the world and how I let it make me feel. I mean, I can choose not only WHAT I think about but also HOW I choose to think about certain things, especially my own ideas of productivity, purpose, and achievement. I get to choose how I relate to my thoughts, my feelings, and my gut reactions.

It’s a process, though, so one step forward, two steps back. Last night, I did the usual: I let my brain go there, and pretty soon, I was clenching my gut, nearly wanting to break my teeth because… I…I…What am I doing? What am I doing with my time? Am I simply not a good writer? Have I become a has-been? And then, the thought of thoughts, the rotten core of the apple:

Have I lost myself in being sober? Which, of course, almost instantaneously morphed into, Sobriety has taken myself away from me!

Evil-doer, DEVIL sobriety.

Today, I’m not sure what to think about this melodramatic conclusion except, it’s sort of true. I am no longer my old self. I no longer have wine to boost my mood, to encourage me to want to do what I thought I wanted to do. Without wine, I don’t do this and I don’t do that, so did I ever really LIKE doing this and that? Was I even good at it?

Moreover, I just feel–feel is the key word; feelings are tricky, remember?–like I’m no longer myself! Sure, I’m a new self, and probably a better one. But, I MISS the old me. The “fun” me. I realized I haven’t danced alone in my room since June! That saddens me. And, I have to say, not drinking has left me feeling more content but less happy. I don’t get to get giddy, to let off steam. Sure, I could do this sober, but…why haven’t I?

So, that thought of “I’ve lost myself in getting sober” was what sent me on a crying jag. No wine, though, to initiate it for no apparent reason…and to instantly turn it off when the wine wears off. You know how that goes: you get drunk, you turn on a song (fuck you, Damien Rice), and you start bawling. It feels good, mainly because you DO have something to bawl about but it’s deep down and you simply don’t want to bring it up, or you CAN’T, or you can’t without the wine; and then, the song ends, you abruptly stop crying, and you refill your glass…likely now laughing. At something equally ethereal and, well, NOT REAL.

Last night, the opposite. Real pain, real tears. A staring-me-in-the-face realization that YES, maybe I will never be the same person, maybe I will no longer be able to identify with that self, which I’ve been living with for a long time. Yes, I am getting older; yes, I might not have children; yes, I might be a has-been, as far as the science writing community in [cold east coast city] goes. Yes, yes, yes. And, it hurts.

But you know what? This, too, shall pass. Cry, sit there and sulk in the dark, and then realize, who the FUCK cares anyway aside from little old you? LOL. Like, if John Doe over there doesn’t even KNOW what I’m going through let alone can even identify with it, is it really worth fussing over? Let it go. CHOOSE how you react to your own Never Never Land of thoughts, Drunky Drunk Girl. It’s not real…

A funny thing happened, then, which is pretty simple: I felt better. When I woke up this morning, I felt like I had made some sort of progress. Moved forward, or at least moved beyond a certain point. If I had drunk to drown out my thoughts and feelings, I never would have processed them. I might have had a fake catharsis (cry, hit someone, pass out exhausted), but I would have woken up in the same place–still sad, still semi-baffled and unclear, and worse, HUNG OVAH.

So, the title of my post: you have to go through it to get through it. For me, desiring to drink these days is much less about wanting to get drunk and happy as it is avoiding confronting my “issues.” Which is a good thing to know, really. Simple, but it takes what it takes, right? Oh, AA, I must thank you for your funny little expressions that I’ve sort of come to adore.

(I’ve decided that the Big Book is a bunch of malarkey, but we’ll blog about that another night.)

AND, thank you, Sobersphere, you’ve kept me once again from ruining my streak with one false move–coming up on 90 days in about a week and a half!

Life is meaningless! Nothing really matters! I don’t have to drink over it, though.

17 Nov

2:30 pm

First up, I’m happy to report an absolutely drama-free morning. A full morning — swam, meditated, made cornbread muffins, washed my bikinis, pet the dog. Believe me, pre-sobriety, I NEVER would have been able boast about doing any of this, certainly not on a Saturday morning!

I’ve been swimming for exercise, and it’s been helping my sciatica, which has been flaring the past few months. (I think hormonal fluctuations play a huge role, so I’ll have to figure out if there’s anything I can do about that.)

Anyway, the past three days I got up around 7 and was at the local beach and in the water by 8 — YES, PIGS DO FLY. It’s been great for my back and leg pain, great for my arms, great for my spirit, great for my sense of accomplishment and therefore, work, and great for my calm. Each time, I’ve swum for about an hour or more — or, have tried to (the crawl was never my forte, and the salt water is a bit rough).

A lot of peeps in AA talk about how they feel good here, in the water. Floating, or swimming, or just being in it. Or, they talk about how their sobriety is enhanced and/or supported by being outdoors. It doesn’t hurt that we’re in an amazing location — and for me, as I’ve blogged before, the heat and humidity activate my sensual body, which makes me feel much more excited about being alive.

I, too, feel good in the water. Better than good. I feel so small, yet so big, in the water. I feel a PART of the ocean, like I could wrap my arms around it. I feel like it wants me, too; or at least, doesn’t shy away. There is no big old brain — mine or someone else’s — making things weird and awkward. I can Just Relax.

In AA, they say that anything can be your higher power, and mine is shaping up to be the HUNCH (in my scientific and nature-loving mind) that the aliveness — everything alive — on this planet is physically, literally OF ME. We are one. We are wired together, from eons of evolving together, to act and live and “think,” as it were, together. As one. So, no wonder I feel more complete, more whole, more alive — and more at peace, at home — in nature. And, especially in the water! Our ancestors lived in the water; we share, literally, the DNA in their cells. Could it be that those cells, which make up our body and brains, which eventually allow us to think and reason and feel and understand through their cellular activity — those cells remember? That the expression of those snippets of DNA is literally the same, across species and across millions of years? I feel it; we all feel it. What that “it” is, I don’t know.

Last night, my boyfriend and I toured the Etelman Observatory, a previously privately-owned dome on the top of the island that was donated to UVI in the ’60s. Anyway, it was Friday night, and what better way to spend the evening than to hear a lecture and then look through a telescope (yes, through a real lens and not a computer attached to the scope — apparently, a big deal and a real treat for astronomers). We saw Jupiter and four of its moons! Very cool. Very cool also to listen to the professor’s talk about asteroids and comets and meteors, and then see pictures of Earth and our solar system bathed, literally, in debris. Like, we are surrounded by rocks and shit flying around us in space.

What struck me was how very, very, very small we are. And how very, very, very either unlikely or likely that this kind of life — bacteria, dinosaurs, humans, rabbits, whales, ferns, lilies, to name a few — could develop and evolve on a planet other than Earth. Either we ARE unique, which is statistically extremely unlikely, or the right conditions developed and persisted on this planet. Those same conditions could develop and persist and lead to an entirely different range of life forms on some other planet, somewhere, in the Universe. No biggie. I mean, the Universe could give less than a rat’s ass; it is absolutely indifferent. Does this comfort me, or confuse me? Both. BUT, I came away from that lecture and viewing feeling more OPEN to accepting life — and evolution — more at face value.

I think I have always held out hope that Earth is particular, and that we, as humans, have been positioned here for a reason. Ironically, all this talk of a directly-intervening god has helped me to understand “Him” better — that I don’t believe in this at all.

There is no God, per se. There is, however, an “order” to things, a way of life, literally, on this planet. Could it be that all life on our planet is, like I said, wired together? Like all the bacteria in a culture, or, all the fish in a school? Is this why we feel more connected to a larger sense of Being, of Self, I guess, when we’re in an ocean or near a forest, places teeming with life?

This is important to my drinking how? Well, for me, the seeking of a sense of purpose, a sense of self, a sense of fitting into this world, this solar system, this galaxy, this Universe — I need to know where I fit; and when I don’t, I feel lost and empty. Does it matter? Should it? I drink over this. I feel helpless and hopeless about it all sometimes. Why not drink? It takes these thoughts (and feelings) away and swaps in grandiose ideas, emotional waves of goodness, a complete lack of caring about the bigger picture. I need to know that it’s OK for it not to matter — in a good way. I mean, if you’re looking at Earth from another galaxy, does anything here really matter; and if it does, what does THAT matter anyway? ๐Ÿ˜‰

After my swim, I sat there and meditated. I enjoy meditating now; it brings me such relief to be ABLE to sit there and enjoy just sitting there. (Believe me, I’m not perfect, and most of the time, I do think. But, I call it meditating because it is an attempt to just sit there and absorb life without thinking about it.) It’s taken me close to a full year to be able to just Sit and Be. And, I consider that a large step in my recovery from addiction to outside substances for my “happiness.” If you think about how much we, as humans, value our thinking brains relative to how much damage they do to us, to how much thoughts simply get in our way? I would even posit that less thinking, less caring, less wondering is serving me better these days! I don’t have to DO anything — I can, and I want to, but I don’t have to care or feel guilty about not caring about the outcome. That is liberating to me, and it partially explains why I can sit — in relative peace and comfort — and watch the water for hours and NOT want to escape this “not doing anything.”

I am taking someone to a meeting tonight, so I guess I have to go. It’s a beginner’s meeting and I have no other plans, so, why the heck not? ๐Ÿ˜‰ (AA, I love you.)

AA is so neurotic; then again, so am I!

5 Nov

11:27 pm

It’s been too long since I’ve checked in. I spent about an hour the night before last writing a ranting post about how “AA makes me feel bad” and “AA makes me feel like a failure.” Humph. Glad I saved that one to draft.

In the past week, I’ve realized that AA is chock full of neurotic people, and NO WONDER we all drank! However, I can take what serves me and leave the rest, as so many people have told me. And, joining a 12-step group could be done simply for self-improvement’s sake; you don’t even have to be a drunk to benefit from the steps — it’s a way of life, a “moral-religious” philosophy that could be interpreted outside the context of drinking, I believe.

I’ve been to four meetings in four days (I plan to do 90; I said I would, and damn it, I will), and each time, the meeting has helped me. One of three things usually happens: I feel better after the meeting; I’ve met someone new or had a good convo (yesterday, I invited two new women friends on a hike with me after the morning meeting on the beach); or I’ve found yet one more reason to avoid fully engaging in AA, which is probably an excuse to drink (but, it makes me feel safer, so, for now, that’s OK!).

So, I like meetings, generally speaking. Like jogging, I feel better AFTER it’s over. ๐Ÿ˜‰

On the other hand, I dread going. I don’t know why. Wait, yes, I do. I’d MUCH rather be going to an event, a social gathering, a party, to drink wine, ANYTHING but a group therapy session. Therapy is work. AA is work. I dread going, too, because it’s a lot of throwing around of platitudes. People talk in parables and platitudes and it makes me wonder, Do you really have any deeper understanding of these steps and your life sans booze than you did before you got into the program, or have you just adopted the program’s “language?” It’s hard to tell with most people at meetings down here on [beautiful island], as I’d say a good 70 percent are 10+ years sober. Yup.

Tonight, I was particularly irritated by the level of neuroticism in the room. Jesus FUCK, guys. Give it a rest! No wonder you drank! I mean, life is important, but it’s not THAT important. ESPECIALLY YOUR LIFE. God damn. And, the worst: the people who talk seem to have replaced shooting the shit over the bar with shooting it at an AA meeting. There’s a lot of ego in the room, ironically, and a lot of people simply LOVE to hear themselves talk, I guess. (Not to mention, it seems like 80 percent of the people at meetings here are from [cold east coast city], so EVERYONE has that accent…and some particularly [cold east coast city]-y life mantras, like, ‘The world revolves around me and my self-induced melodramatic frenzy.’)

Anyway, the topic was the 11th step, prayer and meditation. The discussion was interesting, but a lot of people subscribed to the idea of God infusing life with a sense of purpose. After thinking about why it vexed me so much, I concluded (for now): as a biologist at heart, I think that is actually short-changing nature! My “god” is nature, is the “is” around us, which consists of us, plants, animals, cells, protons, the galaxies, and all the physical and metaphysical forces within (like, the forces of gravity AND the “forces” of ESP, or synchronicity, or astral travel, or alien abduction). BUT, essentially, I don’t believe that because all this exists, there has to be a reason for it, let alone a sense of purpose for human beings. I think we create a need for one in our minds, and that’s why we also drink. But, that’s the problem with our big old brains, isn’t it?

On a positive note, I came to the realization of how important yoga/stretching is to me, or hiking. Yoga in particular allows me to focus out of my thoughts and into my body, which I also believe (thanks to my acupuncture session back in September — mind-blowing) is the source. The body is the holy ground, and only because you’re a living body can you connect to your higher self, to the higher reality that exists and that some people call God and that I am calling the “is” in this post. I didn’t share this, but wanted to. All in due time.

I could rant on and on, and I can say that I’m really getting annoyed by these meetings. But, I guess I want to see how it ends. I’m giving it 90 days, and then seeing what happens from there. And, I feel really good about that. I also have learned to simply let it fucking go. What happens in meetings stays in meetings, OK? Like passing rain clouds (I ran into one on my hike this afternoon), the meetings pass, the cravings pass, it all passes. And that’s a beautiful thing, actually.

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