Tag Archives: slip

No one else has to care about my sobriety

9 Nov

11:14 am

That’s pretty much the lesson I learned on my trip. And, I’m trying to basically ignore the nagging feeling that most if not all of my old friends–people who saw me at my worst, who drank with me and around me–acted as if either my problem wasn’t one/wasn’t that bad, or that even if it was, I didn’t deserve praise.

I don’t know. I don’t get it.

I am back, and having a great Sunday–I finally get to enjoy some down-time. Ahh…sweet breezes, warm weather, the sounds and scents all around. It feels wonderful to realize just how different my values and priorities are now. And, I have to say, it’s what helped me move forward–being forced to live outside my comfort zone, on multiple levels, and try something NEW–and the lack thereof that’s allowed some of my friends to remain stuck.

But, I digress. I don’t want to dwell too hardcore on the whole “my friends don’t seem to give a shit about my sobriety” thing. Which may or may not be a figment of my imagination. First of all, I haven’t been in great touch with any of them since swearing off the wine, and frankly, I don’t think they knew all that much about this whole journey because I didn’t divulge that much (though, to several I did, so…).

I just had this niggling feeling that they were either shocked that I was still sober/am sober at all. I just didn’t get it. They know me, and know my past, and each and every one of them knows specifically that I am, indeed, sober, and not just “not drinking.” None of them really congratulated me, which is OK, I’m used to that. They don’t need to. However, on two occasions, I had to basically interject about my sobriety because no one was asking anything. It’s a huge part of my life, the fulcrum on which everything else rests these days. So, I thought I needed to at least address it–in the context of how it’s made my life much, MUCH better. To one friend, I said, “Everything I have right now is because I am sober.” She was stunned, but got it. Melodramatic? I don’t think so.

I went out to a piano bar with one group of friends, and when the waiter came around, I ordered a San Pellegrino with lime (so delicious). My friends literally went quiet, staring at me in disbelief, as if to say, Well, I didn’t think you were SOBER sober. At a restaurant with another friend, we got to talking about not drinking because she was pregnant, and she goes, “So, you don’t drink AT ALL?”

It’s like, how many times do I have to tell you that I’m sober? And, these are close friends, people who know how bad things got. It’s why I felt like they were purposefully trying to bring me back to the ground…because of envy, because of fear, who knows.

After my trip, I honestly don’t know how much more I can interact with these three friends. It’s sad, in a way, because if they only knew the work and thought that I’ve put into my sobriety, maybe the two who seem stuck could learn from my experience! I felt like they were saying, I “hate” (not hate, but you know) you because you’re well and I’m not. It’s the exact same thing I get from my brother and his girlfriend. I refuse to forgive you: not only did you “get away” with being a drunk, but you get to be sober and happy and productive, too. It’s not fair.

Sometimes, it’s confusing to go “home again,” in terms of old friendships. I think I’ve come into my own to where, I don’t attract dysfunctional ones anymore? I must say, however, that my circle of friends where I live now is awesome: I can’t even count the number of times they’ve gone out of their way to welcome me in spite of the fact that I wasn’t drinking at parties; to offer me nonalcoholic beverages; to respect my choice to not imbibe and make me feel respected and proud, even.

I did wonder if my one friend was turned off by my being sober because she, as a doctor of psychology, is all about harm reduction. I have some new thoughts on harm reduction, and I’ll get to that later. For me, and I think for most of us who have crossed that line, ONE sip is too much. ONE sip activates Wolfie. And what we’re trying to accomplish in the end, is shut Wolfie up, not stop drinking per se.

Anyhoo, la la la. I am great, doing well, rocking the stories and hopefully, starting work as a part-time barista this week. All in all, though, I don’t need the barista work (at least for this month’s income)–but it could be fun. I got to think a lot about my three years in exile here–and how I could have done it differently (for another blog post). My trip back to the city allowed me to both connect with my old self AND let her go. And, though it was exhausting, it’s allowed me to go even further, to expand and grow even more. Oh, and that slip, or whatever it was? Totally allowed me to fully conceptualize never drinking again–drinking just doesn’t do anything but ruin the next day, it’s not how I roll anymore, and the benefits of sobriety are so mind-blowing in terms of moving forward in my life that…there is no place for wine, and that is OK. I can keep on being free. Sobriety is liberation from the old way you did shit; and it allows you a blank slate of mind, to finally try doing shit a NEW WAY.

Sobriety is banishing the “Wolfie thinking” and doing shit a NEW, DIFFERENT WAY. Because you’re free, you really are. And because you can–you are able.

Lots to do today, so I’ll sign off. More soon!

Understanding triggers

12 Oct

10:34 pm

I’m embarrassed, but I know you guys won’t judge.

I drank. I mean, I got drunk. For the first time since my quit date of March 18, 2013. And yes, the whole bottle, of course. I know it’s going to be a one-time thing, primarily because being hung over sucks. And, my body and mind can’t take another one.

Why did I drink? Half of me is like, I did it to “just get it over with,” and half of me is like, I did it because I wanted to try and see what it was like–not sure if I could or would moderate (which to me would have been two glasses, not the four I had). I think Paul blogged something that is exactly right: you try to fit back into it, and it doesn’t fit!

Now, the fact that I’ve been obsessing about this one freaking bottle of wine for like months? Wondering, planning, and then, finally drinking and being hung over for 12 hours? Houston, we DO have a problem. And it’d called alcoholism. I’m not sure what it means, precisely, but I can no longer deny that um, I am not normal when it comes to drinking, and er, recovery might very well be a lifelong thing.

Oy. Hangovers still suck. Suckage. Blargh.

Right now, I think I just feel like WHOA, too many things. Too much stuff. The ending of one life, the embracing of a new one. Confronting unresolved issues, and yes, personality problems. Wondering where my money for November is going to come from. Job searching (am I too old? I wonder, here, if I am too old) and freelancing and stressing about my savings, which is low. I was and continue to be a lurker–I despise that about myself.

What I do know is that wine did not help. And, this hangover will not happen again. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s up there around 7 or 8. Swirling head, anxiety, sadness, thinking of death (of my own, of my boyfriend’s), weeping for at least an hour, if not more; and then, trudging around the cold, dark city realizing that THIS IS MY PAST. These are well-worn paths. And, they are triggers.

I’ve come to have a newfound understanding of triggers. Triggers are not just the people, places, and things, but, they are ways of being, of thinking, of feeling that are embedded in us, and that take work to excavate. They don’t disappear overnight–in fact, they still reside in us, intact, like living fossils. I feel like I’m sad, and depressed, and a lurker (i.e., I have no life, but everyone else does–my one huge “reason for drinking” back in the day). I feel these things, as if they are real, right now-feelings. As if I am still that person. And, then, my reaction is still that person’s: I want to drink, and I drink, and I feel hungover and spend the day writhing and alone.

Yet, none of this makes sense! How could it be? These feelings are totally out of context. I am FREE of that past, aren’t I? I mean, I am no longer sad, no longer depressed, no longer a lurker–I have my own life, one that gives me a lot of joy. I have my boyfriend, 2.5 years living together; our dogs; friends who have become like family; an entire career carved out of sober work. Two years before that I moved my person out of this town–so, it’s been 4 years since I left.

I stored my stuff, though, and I can see how clearing out the unit might be sort of representative of what’s going on here–what I’m mourning is, the actual decision to finally say goodbye and move on. Maybe literally, maybe figuratively. I mean, it’s a great city and I think I could form a new, amazing life here.

It’s a lot to say goodbye to. And, while I am in tears again thinking about it, my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. Talk about ambivalence! It takes what it takes, I guess. I am finally ready to let go and move on. I am finally allowing myself to see that this place can trigger me–activate that stored stuff, that radioactive material that simply takes work to lose, if we are lucky enough to be able to apply constant effort.

I mean, it’s just WEIRD. How can I still be there, when I’m here? How can I still feel the feelings of HER, back THEN, when I’m me, now? It’s just so weird. These triggers–they are deeper than I realized, and more ingrained. And yes, it IS easier to not be triggered into that past when you leave the scene of the crime, so to speak. I’m not sure if moving is the answer for all of us, but it has profoundly affected me–in a good way.

Maybe I’m just awful at saying goodbye. Of holding on when I shouldn’t. I’ve always held on, clung to the past to the point, I guess, of living in it. Or, if not actually living, then dwelling on it such that I’m not living in the present. Why is this, when the past sucked ass? I mean, yes, a lot of living was done here, but a lot of pain happened, too. I love being in a relationship–I can see now why I was so depressed here. Afraid to admit that I wanted–needed–someone else. I always saw that as a bad thing; now, it’s the ONLY thing (that makes my day worth having).

I miss my dogs, and I miss my boyfriend, and I miss our life. And I’m going back to that! And, I see how lonely this place can still make me feel. So, why am I sad about releasing it?

I’m OK, and getting right back on the horse. I know that this has to be a one-time thing; I’m not sure how it wouldn’t be, based on how awful I’ve felt all day. I’m not used to this, and I don’t want to be here. Letting it go as a slip, and moving forward tomorrow.

(In case you’re wondering what it was like, it was pretty uneventful. I felt…somewhat sweaty, and then, somewhat awake, and a slight bit of a buzz in the beginning; but mostly, I just felt anesthetized. But, in a bad way. So, yes, spending your Saturday evening sober is WAY better than sitting there, drinking shitty wine that tastes like cough syrup and makes you feel nothing but numb. I’ve done both, and I can honestly say that being sober is, in fact, a better way to spend the night. Especially if you don’t get buzzed anymore, if you only just get numbed.)

Old news

5 Oct

9:42 am

Hi, everyone! It’s been too long. I’m not even sure if my fingers can type, let alone my head compose words. BUT, here I am–in the city, tired, and feeling a bit whirlwinded.

It’s the city where I started this blog, where I got sober, basically.

It’s dark in the apartment that I’m renting for a month, and I’m just not used to it. I’m not used to being so divorced from my natural surroundings. Weirdddd…

So, yeah. Tired. Tired of lugging shit. Tired because I am sleeping on his couch and haven’t yet inflated my air mattresses. Tired because I walked (wandered aimlessly?) around the city all day yesterday, and did no work. And, I wondered, as I wandered: has this been my life to date? I mean, I have done so much aimless wandering around cities. And, while I guess it’s part of growing up and getting tired of that; it still fills me with a little bit of dread, like, maybe this wandering is supposed to have an expiration date for a reason, and that reason would be to put down roots?

I also did it alone yesterday, and while I used to absolutely love being alone–especially when wandering as a tourist–I didn’t like it yesterday. I felt bored, and lonely. I felt less than alive, as in, if I had had someone with me, he or she would have made the day’s observations more real. That sort of startled me, because it goes to show how much I’ve changed.

I have to admit: I drank about 6 ounces (is that “a glass” in the normal world?) of red wine the other night. I think it was last Saturday. It was relatively uneventful, actually. However, I HAD A HANGOVER THE NEXT DAY. AFTER A GLASS. No kidding! And, it sucked, like every single one of my hangovers: it was an entire day of symptoms (albeit milder ones than if I had had a whole bottle or two) that included feeling tired, fuzzy, and extremely neurotic (anxious and weepy and full of negative, circular thoughts).

I guess what prompted me was a variety of the same things that I usually–these days, as a sober person–let pass, and DON’T drink wine to solve anymore: feeling trapped in my emotional world, feeling alone to have to deal with “it,” restlessness/boredom/ennui. I think, for me, it was necessary to try and see that nope, not only does it figuratively not work, it literally DOES NOT WORK.

(Does this make me want to try white wine? Kind of, yes. Or, maybe that red was bad and I had a bad reaction? Hmm… I see where this is going, Wolfie. You stupid dog, you exhaust me.)

I drove around in circles, and ended up having an “emotional hangover” before I even made it to the store. I already felt headache-y and out of breath. I bought it, though–a shitty, $9 bottle of like, Jacob’s Creek or something–and headed home. I drank two sips in the car, and then, poured myself a tiny glass–my boyfriend said it wasn’t even 6 ounces, which is a regular pour at his bar–and drank it about as slowly as I’ve ever drunk anything!

I did NOT want to be hung over, and I was actually just scared of that prospect. I simply cannot deal with one more hangover, period. I don’t know about you, but my hangovers were like being transported to Dante’s Inferno for 12 hours. I think I’ve detailed it already on this blog, somewhere BACK IN TIME.

Yes, I went back in time as I drank that glass. Essentially, it was a flop. I felt woozy. Drowsy. I tried to read, but couldn’t. I already felt down, emotionally, and it just made it worse. There was no buzz. And, I was so freaked out about having a hangover that I thought, I might as well fold my hand while I’m still ahead. I had no desire to drink more. I corked it and sat there, wondering how I got here.

The main thing I kept thinking was, THIS IS NOT HOW I DO ANYMORE. This is not how I solve my problems. It wasn’t so much that I felt disappointed in myself than it was that I was choosing to go back to the old me–and, I was confused as to what old me I was referring to. There is no old me. THIS IS ME, now. How I solve problems is to actually deal with them, confront the emotional pain head on. Work around it. Find a way to deal such that it doesn’t linger. Anyway, it just felt like I was going back in time, and I had no business being there.

It’s a little bit how I feel now, in the city.

I went to my storage unit the day after I flew in (Friday), and surprised myself. I thought it’d be hard to sort through my stuff and say goodbye, but really, I just dove in and ended up throwing out three huge (13-gallon?) garbage bags and four boxes, as well as sorted out the electronic and paper recyclables. It felt great. I was so sure I would keep my clothes and books, at least, but now I’m wondering…why bother? They remind me of the old me anyway! It all reminds me of the past, the old me, and well…while I do want to cherish how I ended up here, I don’t want to dwell in the past anymore. Which, I think, is what the old “pack rat” me is used to doing.

I wonder if this desire to be “free” is simply a symptom of my desire to wander–I have been a wanderer all my life, maybe afraid to put down roots, maybe just a compulsion that’s in my genes–or if it’s the more positive desire to “let go” and “move on?” I have the overwhelming feeling it’s the latter.

See, I’ve been holding onto this storage unit for over four years, with the idea that I’d move back to the city. Yesterday, I remembered just how much time I spent walking around alone here. And, that’s lonely, especially if you’re single (i.e., have no one really to go home to). I’m no longer single so would be moving back as part of a couple–thankfully, I must admit–but it seems that because I’ve so hardcore done this place in ONE WAY, those memories might always be there, influencing the now, the new, the present.

I went into Trader Joe’s Wine Shop last night, and feeling hugely ambivalent, decided to “just see.” Before I knew it, I turned a corner and inhaled a whiff of wine–someone had dropped a bottle and a clerk was mopping it up. THAT, I told myself as I clenched my gut, is how you’re going to feel, taste, see, and hear if you drink tonight. That red wine stench. No, thank you.

And so, I left the store and got on the train and made my way to a local grocery where I bought delicious staples for dinners for the month. Red wine at night in my apartment in the city–it’s not me anymore. It’s not my life. It CAN’T BE.

It’s old news.

And, so, we go forward. Onward. Keep plugging toward our new reality, which is profoundly more fulfilling and profitable than staying stuck in the wine store-drinking-hangover loop. Drunk and aimless no more.

I’m back…I think

20 Jul

12:05 pm

Hi!

Just a very quick post to say, I finally came home from my month-long “volun-tour” adventure. I didn’t have much time to do any blogging, let alone drinking. And, there was, of course, a lot of drinking–but not on my part!

For many reasons, it was easy to not imbibe when it was a full-time party for some. One, I have lost my taste for it. I did “taste test” someone’s drink (always rum) three times, and all three times, I felt ill just smelling the fumes. Like, ZERO desire to go down that road. I also was never a hard booze type; I’ve mentioned before how I was strictly a wine girl (loved wine, in fact), but even when someone sat down next to me one night, slugging down her cup of wine, I could literally smell the fumes like a hound dog–and they made me cringe, from the pit of my stomach to the top of my head. It was white wine, to boot. I would drink white, but never in preference to red. I can feel my stomach getting sour just remembering an entire weekend I spent downing boxed white, never leaving my apartment except for once, on Sunday, at 3 pm, to get more wine. UGH.

Two, I surrounded myself with a group of non-drinkers, or light drinkers, and I felt like my old, dorky self. They know intuitively that drinking to get tanked is just not something one does, if one wants to get any shit done.

I’ve come so far, I realized. So very far.

Yes, I drank that beer–to end the obsession, as it were, which was becoming REALLY unhealthy (kind of also the reason I have been slow to check back in here–uber-focus on Sobriety with a capital “s” can be almost counterproductive to staying sober). YES, I taste-tested someone’s drink three times–once was because I was really quite curious how a pina colada made by a blender rigged to the back of a bicycle (it was a developing country, and there were a lot of “sustainable” types experimenting with alternative materials!) would taste; the other times were because I was taken off guard when someone shoved a drink up my nose, and because I had never tasted this somewhat-local drink everyone was talking about.

Even still, I wonder why I taste-tested. But, I let it go. I had zero desire to continue drinking because I really just have no taste for booze, especially hard stuff. But mainly, I had zero desire to be drunk–which comes with a huge price to pay, physically (hangover) and psychologically (depression, falling off my cloud, denting my force field of sober awesome). Probably mostly, I had NO TIME to be hungover. I literally had NO TIME to waste there, I was that busy with my volunteer writing and then, my trips, my own work here (gotta pay the bills!), and my general sense of, Wow, this place is different, but equally interesting, without the nonsense of drinking.

I am curious about wine, but, not enough to go trying it right now. I have an almost-irritating amount to do, and I also feel like drinking is Just Not The Answer to anything. Especially to continuing to move forward.

For me, IF I continue to make goals and set deadlines for my personal and professional lives, there is NEVER time for alcohol anymore. And, I’ve finally realized what a good thing this is. Am I doing it consciously? Almost. However, a large part of it is my heart, which keeps reining me in when I think about “trying wine again.” I don’t want this amazing sober ride to end, is all!

I can pretty much say that I would NEVER have gone back to where I went if I had not gotten sober. I found–I created, actually–my volunteer position of my own effort. I would never have had the follow-through, the long-term grit, to make it happen if I had not gotten sober. I am able to make much more long-term plans, but I’m also able to stare them down and see them through. (I had to get my picture taken at customs on the way back into the country, and really, my entire face has changed: my stare is so much more direct, cut-the-crap, kind, open, and calm–bring it on, Life. I know that the “sneaky, giggly” expression of my drunken yester-years is officially gone from my face now–once in a while, nostalgia has me wondering if this “new sober me” is TOO sober/serious, but the majority of the time, I marvel at how much more direct and at peace I look.)

I also know that if I “try wine again,” this energy, or commitment, to follow through on things might go away. And I literally can’t afford that to happen.

And, well, I just don’t want this amazing sober ride to end!

Drinking is boring. What is not boring is everything that YOU GET TO MAKE HAPPEN now that you’re sober.

So, that’s a quick update. I’m still sort of between there and here, and not quite sure why, but feeling anxious. I have a ton of work to do here–and some work to do there, that I didn’t finish before I left. And, this horrible flight crash–and all the other horrendous news that I managed to duck out on while abroad, in my bubble of developing-country-world–well, it’s got me feeling a tad bit overwhelmed. Time to process, and appreciate, and then, plan for the next adventure.

Thanks everyone for checking in, and onward we go!

(And, btw, day count busted at over two years counting? The pedantic in me was like, Oh, shit, now I have to start over, after 460 days, AGAIN. And, you know what? The pedantic in me is what made me drink. I think I’m far enough into sobriety where days, while important, aren’t that important. What is important is maintaining my resolve to not drink because…it’s the right choice. Habit and a long stint of continuous sobriety has pounded it into my brain–do not drink, EVER–but now, the training wheels are coming off. Yes, I drank, but…I’m not not drinking to reach a day count or some other cake-and-candles goal; I’m not drinking because I want–and need–to remain sober.)

I had a beer, it didn’t work, life goes on

27 Jun

9:30 am

I just wanted to check in to say that I am well.

I had a beer. It didn’t work. Life goes on.

Yeah. And, I really want to explore this idea of getting sober–or, a long period of sobriety–as actually changing your brain. I mean, I had a beer because…I guess my obsessing over “what will it be like?” was just getting out of control. I just wanted to see what it was like. AND, I really couldn’t do this thing, and be in this place, without having the local beer (it’s like, a thing here, a very memorable part of the experience of this place, is having the local beer).

You know what? Just like with the “non-alcoholic” beer I accidentally drank (it was a while ago, maybe last December?), it just did not feel good. I felt cloudy-headed, more or less. It was hard to make conversation. I felt somewhat dizzy, and like I just wanted to go to sleep. No high, no buzz. In essence, it just didn’t work.

So, while this is a good thing, right…I also felt a little disappointed. WHAT? It’s really, really not an option anymore? I had the same effect with caffeine after I had a series of panic attacks back in 2005. I used to be a coffee FIEND, but, after a couple panic attacks brought on by coffee (after a night of binge drinking), I simply could NOT drink it anymore. I went from feeling awesome on coffee to feeling…static-brained. I just don’t drink it anymore because it doesn’t work–it makes me feel bad instead of good.

On the other hand, my little experiment was a GREAT thing. In the past several days or so, I’ve basically let go of the idea of what this place WAS to me–of “enjoying” it more while drunk on the local beer. I don’t need it. It’s a new day. It’s time to move on. And, because alcohol doesn’t seem to even work anymore–it makes me feel bad instead of good–I truly have to move on.

And, it makes me wonder: why are we drilling into people this “fear” of drinking again? I mean, I’m not saying don’t gather a ton of sober days under your belt first (like, years). What I’m saying is, we don’t have to live in fear of relapse. Maybe, just maybe, it won’t “work” for us the way it used to? Maybe we truly do have to move on, and embrace another way of coping and living? I haven’t had a cup of regular coffee since 2005. Sure, it sucked, and sure, I miss it every time I smell a pot brewing, but…I simply cannot drink it! It doesn’t work. Life goes on.

It feels good to know. I can somewhat let go of the obsession, this idea that drinking–no matter how far away I get from my last drink–is the fix I want and need.

(All is well here. Communal living is teaching me to open up again, and I’m being reminded of all that I do have–and, how far I’ve come in how comfortable I am with myself. It’s been a great week, and I’ve got three left. I’ll write more soon!)

100 days…and business as usual!

26 Jun

4:34 pm

That’s sort of how I feel. YES, I made it, but eh, I’m still sober and I’ve got work to do. Which is good. I NEED goals, otherwise I tailspin into the bottom of a bottle.

First up, thanks to ALL for the continued support–especially Belle for the shout-out today, and for the brilliant 100 Day Challenge. As you may know, this is not my first time at the 100-day mark, but I have to say, it IS the easiest. There’s an acceptance that drinking will *probably* (haha) offer me nothing; even my reward circuits have re-learned this, and they finally seem to be settling–albeit grudgingly–back into what used to be a natural resting state.

What’s different this time? Well, let me remind you that I first got sober last June and went for 60 days before falling off the wagon twice in one week. Both times involved me blacking out and, once, going swimming (always safe to attempt to swim while blacked out), once, texting an ex and babble-yelling at my boyfriend with two house guests in the next room (marvelous host, I am). Then, I went for five weeks, fell off again for about three weeks, and finally got back on after a horrendous last drunk where I ended up locking someone out of my apartment and having to repair the damage, move out of my place, and get my ass to the airport before 9–all while still flaming drunk and operating on three hours of blacked out sleep. I moved here, and I went for ALMOST SIX MONTHS, which I believe I had something close to 160 days.

Now, the last time I circled around 100 days, ALL I WANTED WAS TO DRINK. The urge had not disappeared, there was no fairy dust falling from the sky and blotting out all the bad memories, overwhelming loose ends and things I hadn’t yet done (which I still have yet to do, btw). My pulsating neuronal circuits still resembled a neon sign that read “Wine ALL Night” and kept throbbing to the beat of my heart.

And, I had no idea that the next oh, two months, would be so hard.

From about day 90 (13 weeks?) to about 20 weeks–that’s almost two whole months–all I wanted was to drink. To stop this nonsense and just go back to normal, which to me was drinking. I wanted my LIFE back. The cravings were worse than ever! I had no idea how difficult it would be–everyone in AA told me that once I hit 90, I’d be OK. Well, it wasn’t like that for me. I felt angry, and bitter, like I had been cheated; here I was, TWICE past 90 days, and all I wanted–STILL–was wine! It’s just never going to get better, I kept thinking. I am permanently brain damaged.

So, I drank. That was one night, back in March, and guess what? Same Old Shit. Blacked out and said way more than I should have, passed out sitting up (I think I threw up on myself a little, too), and felt like ass for the next THREE days. It would not–could not–do. With literally no other option, I got back on the horse, (well, in my case, the unicorn), and let the slip pass.

This time around, it’s been much easier. I mean, getting back on the wagon wasn’t hard, though at the time it felt like three weeks was WAY too long to convince myself that I shouldn’t drink again. I think my sober muscles, which I had been building up over the past year, just PUSHED; and there I was, going on four weeks, then eight, and now…100 days.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the neurochemistry involved in disorders of the brain, and how it might work for alcoholism. I wonder what our drinking circuits look like: are these circuits so rigid, so inflexible, that they’ve almost solidified into place? I think so. I think it takes a lot of mental work to loosen these configurations and to dissociate them from anticipating a drink, yes. But, I think simply Not Drinking When You Really Really Want To goes a long way toward dissolving these bonds, let’s just call them. These configurations settle into a specific shape; and, that shape is kept in place by drinking when you WANT to, not necessarily because it feels good to drink. Think of it like this: add booze at any point in the early stages of recovery, and BAM, those circuits snap back into place and start throbbing again. Less and less so, the longer you are sober. But…maybe not. Everyone’s drinking problem is unique.

In any case, I’m OK not drinking, and I’ve come a long way toward replacing not drinking with like, real life, including work, friends, and future plans. I’m not so self-absorbed; I feel a lot more like myself again, able to be out in the world and not feel like my skin is as fine as butterfly wings.

I want to be excited about today, like uber-excited, but really, it’s just another day! I continue to appreciate every moment that I’m sober, but I whine a LOT less about wanting to drink. It’s been easier in that–and I think I’ve already said how incredulous I am about this development–I don’t have many cravings anymore. Like, yes, sure, OK, I GUESS it’d be nice to have a glass of wine, but, really, would it?

And, to be honest, a lot of the stuff I used to worry about, I just gave up on. Haha. I’m not going to be perfect, I may never publish a book, I probably won’t have kids of my own, I probably definitely won’t own a brownstone in Brooklyn. I probably won’t speak to my brother again. BLAH BLAH BLAH. Shut up, cousin of wolfie, who is the voice of pointless rumination!

The only thing that seems to really matter anymore is that I’ve got my foundation, my new sober house. And it is hurricane-proof. Can withstand the strongest flood. It’s like, when life starts to seem to real–when all that out there actually starts to look real–I just go inside my sober house and close the door. See ya, wolfie! See ya, cousin of wolfie! See ya, people who don’t matter and things that I’m making up about you!

MY HOUSE: cool cement floors covered in exquisite blue tiles; a tall ceiling; a breeze from the most glorious sea you could envision, twisting the sheer linen curtains ever so slightly. Oh, what? Is there a storm? Oh, wait, you said a hurricane? Nope, it’s like the dead of night inside my house, it’s that quiet. Oh, is someone coming over to knock on my door, breathe in my face, scream in my ear? OK; whatever. Tell them to go around the back, I’ll be a while. My house. Hurricane-proof. Avalanche-ready. Typhoon-resistant!

What’s next? Well, ending this long-winded blog post, for one. And then…working. Not drinking. Going to bed looking forward to tomorrow. The usual. 😉

It’s OK to not care (that much) anymore

23 May

7:46 pm

I’m here, and nothing big to report. Still got blue skies, sparkly water, green trees, and very little desire to fuck it all up by drinkin’, let alone care about the whole mess. I’m gliding, and it feels good.

FINALLY. It’s taken almost a year for my brain to repair itself; and, I really think it has, to a large extent. I’m not sure what to make of it, though, because it’s new territory. Simply put, I think I’ve just accepted that I cannot drink, for one thing. I don’t drink now, like I’m preggers or have a life-threatening illness. I can’t drink, won’t drink, don’t drink. End of story. I think I’ve not only given up (let’s just say) on feeling better, but I’ve stopped actually being 100 percent fucking CONVINCED that wine will do it for me! Which, if you look at it in a positive light, is a good thing.

Second, I don’t really have time to drink or think about drinking these days–I’ve got science and writing and travel and future plans to wrangle with, AND, I’ve started running again, so that means EITHER drinking or training, but not both (hangover + running = null set). I don’t really have the energy, either, to think about all the emotional whys and wherefores that brought me to addiction. I’m over it, and frankly, I think it’s OK to stop dwelling on it all, for now. Yup, you should say you’re sorry. Yup, you should connect your drinking to your (my) self-loathing attempts at self-sabotage. Yup, yup, yup. Let it go, though, friends. I’ve read quite a few posts lately in which peeps are running around in their heads, trying to figure it all out. It’s OK not to care about figuring it all out, for now. You can not care AND be sober. You really can!

Booze is not the problem, you (we) are. That means that other things will come up, like binge eating, or sugar, or coffee. Or, doing something instead of what you should be doing; by “should,” I mean your dharma, and we all know what it is we’re called to do, we just have to take the time to discover it. At the end of the day, only you can figure out what happens after the bottle of vodka or decanter-sized glass of wine runs out. I’ve read some posts dealing with filler addictions, replacement fixes. Look: if you can give up fucking drinking, DUDE, you can give up ANYTHING. I’m pretty sure the only thing more painful than fucking around in my head for a year, wrestling with wolfie-boy is, I don’t know, hanging from metal hooks latched into my skin? It’s a constant struggle for all of us, I’m guessing, to not cave into our other “vices” just because we don’t drink. Again, let it go. You’re doing your best. Cut back, or do one thing less than you’re doing it, or more. And, it’s OK to not give a shit about this, too!

All that matters is you’re not drinking. Everything else, if you’re a human being with a functioning mind, will fall into place…eventually. And if it doesn’t? Well, it’s OK to let that go, too.

What helps me now? Knowing full well that a “glass of wine” (haha) won’t make it better. Won’t even come close. I just KNOW THAT. Why? Because I slipped. And, I think about the scenario over and over and over and over…until it finally fucking dawns on me that wine is not really what I want. I want relief. From what, is the key question. And, thinking it through, and finding your way–like, a mental route–to that question IS sober living, whether or not you end up drinking to ease the pain. GOOD FOR YOU that you’ve arrived at that KEY question: hold it in the palm of your hand and don’t let it go, no matter how much the little jewel might burn.

I also fill my days as much as I can, and I run into the problem of feeling empty, like I have nothing inside me, like I’m just a shell of a person. And, in a sense, I am. But, I (we) are building, and filling, and creating, and being productive instead of destructive–so, move through the regret and embrace this probably common truth that we (I) are shells and start FILLING it up with stuff you like to do. Most of the time I think I don’t know what I “really really” want or like to do, but I know I like writing, and science, and I have degrees from schools, and there’s the dogs, and the boyfriend, and my cakes, and…why the FUCK am I being so hard on myself? I’m SO full, it’s ridiculous! So, even I don’t know what I mean by this “shell” thing, but again, I don’t care. For now.

Hey, I thought the other day, I can live sober. I can actually DO THIS. It ain’t that bad not drinking. What a fucking epiphany. LOL. (Hello, first 35 years of my life! Were you really THAT bad?) Even a few weeks ago, I didn’t really believe this.

The remaining immediate hurdle for me is getting over, somehow, the sense that there is nothing as awesome to look forward to as wine. Sure, I can do this and substitute that, but wine, oh, wine, there is no one but you. That goes in direct contrast to what I just wrote, about realizing that wine is NOT what I want, but hey, it’s the human brain we’re dealing with here: fucked up.

Yes, this post contains a lot of “fuck’s,” but fuck it, this is how I talk to myself sometimes. 😉

So, I’m on Day…I’m not even sure. 66. Tomorrow will be 67. Onward to 90, then 100, then…the gilt-edged 180? *glitter ball*

Another 60 days… (and I feel fine)

18 May

6:05 pm

I’m at 60 days again (well, 61 today), and for some reason, it’s not a big deal. Sure, I put my 60-day AA chip out on display on the top of my desk (alongside my 24-hour and 30-day, all three awaiting the 90-day chip that remains in my desk drawer), but, otherwise it’s become more of a given: I don’t drink.

For one thing, I know I have a lot I want to do in the next few months, both personally and professionally, and drinking will prevent me from doing it. Period. Drinking is the opposite of being productive, and I want to get shit done! After all this time, I know that it’s not what I want, and, I know that it’s counterproductive–and, being productive is the antidote to my cravings, for the most part. Drinking gets in the way of that, both before, during, and long after. As my Facebook friends so effectively illustrated this Saturday morning, I can either be going to the bodega for Advil, coconut water, and a bagel; or, I can be on my way to Estonia (or, whatever other country is on your must-see list).

Secondly, compared to my last time being here (mid-December), I really don’t feel like drinkin’. Really really. That dazed-and-confused feeling, that first-few-sips-and-I’m-already-starting-to-forget-things feeling, that nervous-because-who-knows-what-I-might-do-in-my-blackout-some-dumbass-shit-I’m-sure feeling–yeah, I really don’t want THAT feeling.

I’d rather get on with things. And those things–scientific editorial work, story pitching, trip researching, future job planning–can’t be done while thinking about drinking, drunk, or being hung over.

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately grappling with the idea of slipping and/or relapsing. For me, slipping was necessary. I don’t like to be afraid, to wonder, and slipping was my way of dispelling my fear: What would it be like if I drank? Welp, I drank and found out! It was necessary, for me anyway, to finally know–deep down, with no lingering doubts–that being sober is better than drinking, and the very least, drinking does not help me now; most of the time, it makes things worse. One glass is more painful than no glass, mainly because I just want more, and more, and more. I know I won’t want to stop, and I’d rather just skip the whole mess.

I never got a pink cloud, but I do have a moment now and then; and one of the best pink-cloud moments is when you sit back and think, Look at what my Saturday is like NOW, versus what it was like when I was drinking? And, the miracle is not that I quit drinking, or reached 60 days. It’s that THIS is my new normal–I expect to get up at 8 or 9 or 10, do the dishes and make coffee, walk the dogs to the beach with my boyfriend, bathe the dogs when we get home, shower, and then drive to “town” to hit a mini-arts fest and shop at a big box store (yes, I can’t tell you how fun shopping for bulk items is, even now, on a Saturday, when any other day prior to last June would have seen me sick and in bed until 3 pm, barely breathing and trying to piece my soul back together form a night out that I don’t remember). Yes, this is my new normal, and how much glitter can I toss over my unicorn’s shoulder to celebrate such an awesome mental and emotional achievement in healing? And endless supply, friends.

Reality check

3 Apr

10:22 pm

I got a big gush of “whoa” tonight in my attempt to re-read some of the past year’s worth of journal entries. I’ve journaled my entire life, but over the past decade, a lot of it has consisted of miserable, self-hating rants about how horrible I feel to be hung over, what a shit I am to keep doing this to myself, and how lame I am, in general. However, this past year takes the cake: my journal entries were so rambunctious in just how GRUELING it is to get and keep sober, I had to stop reading somewhere around July! It was tiring and confusing and downright tedious going in and out of it all–I mean, the physical and mental stages of withdrawing, and craving, and fearing, and doubting, and wondering, Can I really do this?

For me, that analytical mess has passed, thank God(dess). Yet, I’m not that self-delusional (anymore) to note that, yes, while I’ve changed and somehow managed to outgrow (or, outrun?) all those thoughts, the bottom line is, I still have the tendency toward compulsion. I appreciate all your comments, but mostly, I appreciate the ones who’ve said, A slip IS a big deal because of what it allows you to think, which is, Oh, sure, I can drink! I’m healed!

That’s the voice of compulsion. It’s more like, I give up my autonomy for a prison of the mind. That prison is the need to drink, the compulsion, the wanting, the belief that it’ll work this time. And the door to that locked cell is booze itself.

Confession: I bought a bottle of red wine the other day. (Remember when I said I spent ahem, a “while” staring at the shelves and shelves of cheap, good red wine at a big box store? Well, yeah. I took down one of those bottles, then put it back. Then, took down another, with .5% less alcohol content, and bought it. I know, that .5% is really going to make me SO much less drunk.) It’s been a few days, and I’ve had it in my desk drawer. Well, I finally uncorked it this afternoon and poured it down the kitchen sink. Along with a half-bottle of Stoli and two mini-bottles of Jager (purchased in a near-blackout state; obviously, one almost NEEDS to be unconscious to want to drink Jager).

No, I hadn’t had any of the hard booze these past near-6 months, but…I never dumped it. I guess I never really committed to being sober. DING DONG. Reality check.

I have to say, I was shaking as I opened the bottle of red. I mean, I was nervous. What if my hand suddenly turned and started pouring it down my throat? What if I licked my fingers and just couldn’t help myself? As I watched it drain, I realized I still don’t have much control over my compulsion–it still affects me. Of course, I had no intention of drinking any of it, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure that somehow, it wouldn’t end up in my mouth.

I took a few sniffs of it as I poured, two or three really big whiffs. I thought it would give me the sensation of nausea, but it gave me what felt like my drinking life passing before my eyes in a series of images/memories, most really horrible but some good. And then, to my surprise, came the slightly panicked thoughts: Holy crap, what about all the good times? Am I really giving them up forever?

With the hard alcohol, I was like, Pfft, whatever, don’t let the door hit ya on the way out! Yet…as I proved to myself last year, I would SO totally drink that shit if I was already drunk on red wine. So Totally. And, I know it. DUN DUN. Reality check number two. (I NEVER did that prior to last year, ever ever ever. I wasn’t a hard booze person. Yet, I must admit, as my alcoholism got worse last spring, I WAS hitting the tumblers of vodka, often (depending on how drunk I felt) skipping the mixer entirely.)

What’s the lesson? I’m a bit scared. I thought I had this licked, but yet, I was shaking with an actual fear that I–my physical person–was not one of mind. That somehow, I might lose my head and in a flash, start gulping down wine! And, that this is a compulsion that I can’t seem to manage.

In all my journaling and thinking over the past few days, I can sum it up in a few sentences: I like living without a crutch, without having the option of running home to wine. Drinking is a prison; outside of this, I learn–mainly about myself, what makes me tick. And, it’s a given that, regardless of how I FEEL about not drinking, when I don’t drink, my life moves forward and when I do, it doesn’t.

So, September 14th, folks. My 180-day mark. I feel relieved. And, strong. Happy to be (back?) inside what appears to be a clear bubble, in which the entire world is reflected back at me. And…one last thing:

*glitter ball* times two, heading right at me!

(*glitter ball* means, my unicorn has spit one out of her horn, and it’s flying your way in a tiny flame-tail of explosion and firecracker and goodness)

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