Tag Archives: social anxiety

Getting through, over, or past it…sober

17 Jul

3:06 pm

Just checking in. So tired. Sad, happy, confused, relieved. I’ve been entertaining an old classmate/friend/drinking buddy for the past five days–and I’m so. Very. Tired. And sad. I don’t know, maybe just drained.

This was a hurdle, and I guess I did good. I think I’ve hit a new place in my sobriety where the cravings are secondary (practically nonexistent) compared to my desire to move through things sober in order to learn what I know I need to learn.

Like, how to make small talk with someone whom I just can’t reach…the way I want to/the way that makes me feel safe and good and good about myself. Yeesh. I felt like the entire weekend was trying to make contact through bubble film between our two ENTIRELY SEPARATE UNIVERSES. Sometimes I wonder if I’m unique, if this is my own personal dragon to slay–always in my head and worrying what someone is thinking about me, whether they’re having a good time, whether they’re feeling a connection to me or feeling like I’m a cartoon character who projects my thoughts into clouds above my head.

I didn’t react to these feelings of discomfort and disconnection by wanting to drink, though. I know I can’t, I know I shouldn’t, and that’s that. It’s that easy now. Plus, she’s seen me at my worst, and neither of us want to go there again (she didn’t drink the whole time either, so that made it even easier). However, getting me through it was this newfound sense of knowing that it’s these moments, and events, and people that I NEED to “do” and “get through” sober. I can’t drink to avoid the reality that, connecting with other people is hard. It’s a big deal-thing for me, it’s something I’m constantly worrying about: is it me who can’t seem to feel anything but trepidation and lack of familiarity around people I don’t know? I mean, it’s a visceral relief–and always has been–when I can finally be alone again. Do others feel this way? Sigh. I drank a lot over this, and now I can’t. So, I do my best and hopefully, is it good enough.

This was hard to learn about myself, though. Re-learn, I should say. I mean, I really SAW it this weekend with my friend in town. I never would have had to face it and accept it if I had allowed myself the option of going around it by getting drunk.

My friend and I were drinking buddies in graduate school, and we never hung out much outside the bar. I’ve changed a lot, and I don’t want to say that she hasn’t; but what I noticed was how much chaos she was holding onto (for protection?); chaos in the form of bad relationships, a job that doesn’t pay her what she’s worth, a disrespectful roommate, comparing herself constantly to others, passive aggressiveness.

Let’s face it, though: getting sober has not only made me see these things more clearly, but allowed me to see that I deserve better in a friend AND, that I can and will (uncomfortably and clumsily) stand up for myself. Anyway, the point is, I see these things in other, non-sober people, and am somewhat astounded that getting sober has offered me a way out. By no means am I free and pure and enlightened, but at the very least, I NOTICE the chaos and I make attempts at not living in it anymore.

I think it was Day 120 for me yesterday! The cravings have subsided, that’s for sure. I no longer really fantasize about that “glass” of wine because, well, it’s sort of getting pointless/boring to do so. Yes, at times I felt bored, agitated, and exhausted this weekend, but I knew in my gut that THIS was the only way, getting through it all sober. And, I have the feeling that sobriety is going to start resembling this more; the cravings seem small-fry compared to the “real work” that lies ahead. And, the rewards of this supposed “real work” are bound to be much more substantial–a true high–than resisting the cravings. I can feel it.

Onward…

Everything scares me…a little bit

10 Jul

12:57 pm

Well, we all know that I spend a good part of my day inside my head. Does that mean I, myself, am oblivious to this? No! Does that mean that I don’t believe it serves my recovery? Hell’s no! Which is why, I beg of you, to bear with me on this post; I promise, there IS a point.

Everything scares me…a little bit.

Just what I said. I have a friend coming to town this weekend, and instead of being excited (which I am), I’m nervous. She and I have never really hung out, sans booze, in any kind of “domestic” capacity. We never went over to each other’s apartments, we went to the bar! In fact, our entire friendship was based on nights out, mutual commiserating. It scares me a little bit to socialize, in general, but it also scares me to anticipate what I’m dreading might be a lot of awkward moments, pregnant pauses, and maybe even some insistence on “what the fuck happened, your life is WAY different now, WAY better!” Maybe I’m scared of holding my own in the face of my successful recovery–I’m so used to being down, I guess, that it’ll be weird to “show off” my new life. (Maybe success makes me feel uncomfortable?)

I’ve got some decisions to make soon, one of which involves biting the bullet and likely getting back into the full-time workforce, maybe going to school part-time on the side. Which will involve a LOT of people, and places, and things I’ve been avoiding as triggers since I got sober last summer.

Deep breath. I’m sure I’ll rally, and take this as it comes. One of the things that getting sober has allowed me to see about myself is that, I want to drink when I’m confronted with something that scares me. And, quite frankly, everything scares me…a little bit.

I don’t know if it’s FEAR per se; it’s more like doubt (uncertainty): Can I do this sober? Will the stress be too much?

I have to re-learn how to learn new things, I think.

Sobriety is not just about avoiding the “people, places, and things” that made you want to drink; it’s about crafting a new life, and one that includes new people, places, and things–that don’t make you want to drink. And what, pray tell, ARE these things that don’t make me want to drink? Discovering what those are is, in a nutshell, LIFE.

I mean, I used to be (am?) a science reporter, and I think aspects of that career drove me to drink. Yet, I am used to the sense of accomplishment I got from this career, and I am used to knowing how to apply this to my framework of the world. I know, though, that if I am truly committed to a “new” way of life, I have to confront the possibility that this career might be more harmful, painful, and addictive than anything else (it involves a lot of competition, a lot of ego, a lot of outside validation).

On the other hand, do I have it in me to switch careers? Do I really want to? How accurate are my projections of having the money, the time, and the focus, at 39 years old, to earn another degree? I don’t know myself that well right now, is what I’m saying. I know how “old me” would have tripped through these decisions, what framework of the universe I was working with. Now, I’m not sure what I hold most dear, what my universal laws of personal physics are! It’s like, I am learning not just new ways of coping, but new ways of learning how to cope.

Journalism is exhausting, but it’s the ultimate high. Can–and should–I relinquish this for something “less” rewarding? I could, for instance, teach, or do grant writing, or write fiction (yes!). A part of my mind–that part that is the source of some of my avoidance/addictive behavior-cries out, Nooooo, DDG! You can only do this one thing, because this one thing is what you’ve always done!

Ugh. “Alcoholism” is SUCH a mental game; I’m beginning to realize it has nothing to do with wine and everything to do with long-held “life philosophies.” Trying something new is often what caused me to drink–not because I don’t like it or I’m afraid of it, but because I believe that I’m wasting time NOT doing what I “should” be doing, what became “too hard,” what I KNOW I can win at, if “just keep trying.” Life philosophies like this are hard to even articulate let alone begin the process of overhauling.

A simpler–and more positive–way to approach this is: My work might not be healthy for me; a relationship might not be healthy for me–do I have the courage to try (to learn) something new, something different?

I had a friend whose literal life refrain was, It’s a process. And, if I can keep that in mind over the next few weeks and months, I’ll consider myself “successful.”

On a final note, you know what’s crazy? I’ve been so busy thinking about other stuff that I haven’t even checked my day count in at least a week! September 9th will be 25 weeks, so that makes today…114 days! Woot! Rock on, me, and fuck you, wolfie!

What a year will do, or, Sitting around drinkin’ is weird

1 Jul

12:04 pm

Last July 4th, I was at my first sober wedding–I had 18 days, and it was the longest I had not drunk in like, a decade? (This was my “first” 18 days, btw, so a real first. I slipped at 60, then again about a month later, then again at almost six months this past March; I’m now in the double digits again, but I still consider my sober birthday to be last June 13th).

It was a struggle–and a BIG DEAL–mainly because I was at a wedding, and with a bunch of old friends. There was one guy who was going through a divorce, and he and I shared a room. I remember watching him get drunk all over the place, and I remember feeling for the first time that intoxicating (pun intended) mixture of relief and joy that can only come with those first outings sober-when-you-could-have-been-that-idiotic-blackout-drunk. You know that feeling? It was glorious: empowering beyond words.

I also remember noticing, for the first time really, how compulsive his drinking was. I mean, I had drunk with this guy for 15 years, and I was only now noticing that he was drinking too much? It’s not like he had a LOT to drink either, but he drank often: at brunch, then at lunch, then for an afternoon pick-me-up, then again at dinner. I kept thinking, Why does he need to drink now? And now? Is he that bored with my company?

Fast forward to THIS July 4th, and that small voice inside my head has morphed into a veritable chorus: It’s really…WEIRD…that people arrange their social lives around booze, isn’t it? I look to events now and think, Does it have to center around booze? More importantly, why aren’t people aware of the fact that they’re focusing their events around getting drunk? Are we all really that bored with each other? Afraid to socialize sober? Sadly, I think that the answer is yes, for a lot of people.

For this upcoming 4th weekend, one of our friends down here invited a group of us to a bash at his house in America. We’re not going, mostly because it’d be too expensive. And, you know what’s super-awesome, unicorn-parade, glitter-balls-all-around amazing? Instead of thinking, Aww, we don’t get to go and and drink all weekend, the first, second, and third thoughts I had were, Eh, it’s going to be a boozefest and I’d rather not; and, Well, it’s going to be a boozefest and no one’s really going to remember–or appreciate–our being there, so why bother? I’m not that much of a cynic, but in essence, that’s how these events turn out; I would often drink because I was bored of the company, too.

Yes, things have changed. I never thought I’d grow up, actually. And, I realize now that it’s not so much growing up as it is OWNING up–to not just my problem, but a pervasive social norm, which is getting drunk to avoid a shit-ton of scary things that for many people include socializing sober, spending quality time with others, enjoying life instead of escaping it through booze. Making real connections with real people.

I don’t want to sound too smug, though. Different strokes for different folks, I guess, and I would have been first in like with my empty cup getting off that plane–WHERE’S THE WINE, BITCHES?

This 4th? I’m looking forward to taking some days off, sitting on the beach with my boyfriend and dogs, reading, running, planning a (sober) volunteer trip. I love snorkeling; it’s so peaceful gliding through the underwater world, enveloped in silence, watching the schools of blue or silver fish catch the sun and reflect it back in one explosive glint. I love staring at the water, listening to it move and breathe. I can do these things now, tolerate them sober, enjoy them even! And, the idea, the mere thought, of going to an event that is centered around drinking? It doesn’t appeal to me anymore. It doesn’t even make SENSE to me anymore.

In case you didn’t notice, I updated my “big day is here” widget to mark September 14th as my 180-day milestone. Gulp.

Do I see 90 days coming up? Why, yes I do!

5 Jun

11:27 am

It’s hard to know where to begin, but I guess I’ll start with, I’m still sober and it was beyond easy to not drink on my trip. And, sure I feel proud, and relieved–in that order–but above all, I’m surprised. I didn’t really want to drink! It was like, I had no time, and found every reason NOT to. I can’t drink now, but maybe tomorrow, I kept telling myself. Today’s not going to work, but maybe tomorrow I can fit in wasting a few hours sucking down expensive red poison water and planning the next 12 hours of feeling like ass? Sure, OK, maybe wolfie-boy, we’ll see.

In fact, I was so busy, and so head-exploding hot, and so…scared of what I might do, out and about alone, with no safety net and even less tolerant people of a drunken fool stumbling around yelling and throwing fists and nearly falling off the subway tracks…that it was quite easy to see disaster waiting in the wings if I took that first drink. So, I didn’t take that first drink. (Though, there was a moment on Saturday night, when I felt so weird and awkward trying to dance in front of people sober, that I was like, Give me a fucking beer; and my good friend, the one who bailed me out of many a hapless situation, both physically and emotinally, was like, Um, I don’t want to see you go down. And I was like, You’re right, fuck that.)

It was a busy trip, which helped. I do well when I’m busy, and working on my proverbial to-do list. I need to do things, I need to accomplish stuff. Which is a double-edged sword at times, especially in that town. But, I used the exhaustion factor to my advantage and simply didn’t allot any time to drink or be hung over.

It was also hot as a bitch (I mean, hotter than down here, if you can believe it), so that was a turn-off, too. Who wants to be hung over in a stanky apartment when you’ve got less than 72 hours in the Big Apple? A no-brainer…now, at least. Three years ago, I think I would’ve been busting open bottles at 11 pm, drinking until 2 (or however long it took me to pass out); and then getting up, hung over, at 8 or 9, just because I was that hardcore and had that much resilience. Not any more, and thank God(dess).

I also wanted to prove to my friends that I had changed, that things WERE different. No stumblings-home at 4 am. No silly arguments. No perilous shenanigans. Or WORSE. I wanted to be who I claimed I was and am, and I think I succeeded.

It was also, well, something freaky to walk by the hundreds of bars and restaurants, corners and crannies, old apartments, former school buildings–all places where DRAMA WENT DOWN. Drinking drama. Oy. The lack of self-care, self-respect, self-love I showed myself back then. It wasn’t about having fun, it was about fear, and self-sabotage: the blackouts, so very many of them, which hid from plain sight the horrible things I said and did and were done to me. Ugh. Anyway, these memories helped me to know that, NO, ONE DRINK WOULD NOT BE OK. One drink would likely mean at the worst, endangering my life, at the least, pissing off my host. It was like standing at the edge of a frozen lake, not wanting to step onto the thin ice and watch it crack. No, I simply could not do it.

So, lots of stuff got done, is all I can say. I got up early and went running on Thursday morning (which felt so…normal, considering that I NEVER did this in the five years I lived there); made it to my dentist appointment; went for a quick dress shop (unsuccessful); and then, hopped up to Harlem to attend what turned out to be more of an informal meet-and-greet than a new student orientation. Lots and lots to think about there, but that’s for another post.

On Friday, I renewed my drivers license; shopped and walked and sweat; went back to my friend’s to change and take her out to dinner for hosting me. She drank, and by God(dess), I had ZERO PANGS. I mean, it was interesting to see HER reaction to my not drinking, which was to ask me if it was OK if she drank. And, to see just how little I actually know about hanging with drunk people. Like, I kept having to remind myself that she was getting drunk, which would explain her rising voice, her increasing talkativeness. It was weird. I mean, I have so little experience being on the receiving end of a drunk person’s inebriated behavior that it was, well, enlightening to watch it unfold.

By Saturday, I knew I wouldn’t drink (even though I still wanted to). I went to brunch and the park with another friend, who drank with our meal and who also asked me if it was OK. (Yes, I do feel blessed to have friends that are so supportive, but I’ve been pretty open about everything.) The big test came that night, when I–wait for it–WENT OUT sober. Not a drop! I’ve been worrying about this for a long time: sure, I can go out here, sober, but can I go out, like really Go Out, in a big city, where everyone, it seems, is drinking and talking and partying all around…and not only stay sober, but have fun doing so? Yes, it sucked at first. It felt hard (reawwy reawwy hard), but once I got over the awkwardness and realized that no one really fucking cares about me or what I’m doing–all was fine. Great, actually. I had just as much fun, if not more, than if I had been drinking.

The biggest revelation I had was this: I think and care WAY too much about what others think about me. In fact, I am about 99.5 percent more conscious of myself than anyone else. And, a sad point: I looked around and realized that I, too, had no idea about what was going on with anyone else. I am so limited in perceiving others’ realities, and vice versa. In fact, the only reality there really is is how we react to our thoughts and feelings. Anyway, I digress.

There could have been the full spectrum of drunkenness at the bar, and I wouldn’t have known by just looking at people. Were some peeps a little drunk, a lot drunk, blacked out? Were some dealing with the inner hell that is alcoholism? It’s likely. What was especially poignant was realizing that I was probably the only person there even wondering about who was dealing with a personal inferno, let alone CARING about it. People don’t care about your drinking problem. And, that’s what makes it so very difficult and distressing when you’re out, as an alcoholic: you’re in a hell, whether you’re being a “good drunk” or a blacked out asshole; yet, no one knows, no one CAN know, and therefore, you’re alone.

I felt sorry for people like me at that moment, and felt again that same indignation over peeps who have not forgiven me for some of my blackout shenanigans. It’s called empathy, people; get some.

Sure, I might have drunk a beer, but there was no way in HELL I was caving–and, one beer might have been all it would’ve taken. After that night, walking home feeling so alive and empowered, I realized something: getting and staying sober is the key to actually owning your life. It might be pedantic (people who drink only once in a while to escape or loosen up, let’s say, would categorize drinking as a small detail in their lives, for instance), but it fans out. It’s about facing your thoughts and feelings and learning how to own them. And, with that ownership comes true freedom–the ability to make choices and move forward, typically. Instead of stagnating, you get to choose how things go. It really is liberation. And not from simply being addicted to ethanol.

Sunday was tiring, as I walked, and went shopping, and got my hair cut, and finally, came home and packed and got ready to go. I overslept the next morning, but hey, no worries, I’m fucking SOBER getting to the airport and nothing could be better. HOW EASY is it to travel not hung over? Jesus, I can’t believe how hard I made it for myself, always drinking the night before flying? Even though I only got about four hours sleep that night and every other night, I’d pick sleep-deprived a thousand million times over hung over.

All in all, a very surprising trip. So, like I said, I’m the Grand Marshall and this sober parade is COMIN’ through, bitches!

I’m coming out…

16 Mar

10:42 pm

soon. Very, very soon. I think. I guess.

Lately–well, today especially–I’ve been feeling like I need to get out more. I do, it’s true. I work from home, I have no professional network down here, and I’ve perhaps become complacent in having my boyfriend as my sole/primary source of social life.

The thing is, I don’t know how to be all that “social” without drinking. And, if I do recall, I didn’t want to drink with others not just because I didn’t want to drink like a lady, but because I just liked being alone. Sober or drunk, I like being alone. In fact, I’ve spent a LOT of days, nights, weeks, years–as a journalist, as a drinker, as a 20- and 30-something–getting to know other people. I’m kind of digging getting to know myself. Spending all my time with myself. I feel like people want me to apologize for this, and it pisses me off.

I’m not going to apologize, and I’ve been doing my thang long enough to know that it’s quite all right to let what other people think I should be doing with my time go in one ear and out the other. I have been ignoring the crowds since I was a kid, and it’s never made me feel “happy,” but I’m not necessarily seeking happiness rather contentment, peace, creative expression.

It also bugs me when “grownups” think it’s all about them. Just because I’m not hanging out with you doesn’t mean I don’t like you and/or I don’t want to hang out with you. Maybe I’m, y’know, getting sober and going through my own shit? Did you ever ask, or wonder? Maybe I’m going through my own awkward time figuring out how and what to do as a sociable sober person. Bottom line is, it has NOTHING to do with you.

Luckily, for some reason, getting sober has allowed me to take a big step back and give–excuse my French–much, MUCH less of a fuck about other people’s drama and bullshit. I don’t need to get upset; I really don’t allow myself. And this, somehow, is happening without much effort on my part.

What’s more, I feel like enough of a loser sometimes because I don’t socialize, but even more because I don’t want to, as a sober person. And now I have to defend myself against people who force me to be the empathetic one and lay out gently but non-offensively what *they’re* missing and how *their* reaction is not acceptable to me?

Not a good way to end my otherwise good day (I pulled myself through a 6-mile run, and am now feeling relatively pain-free, so that’s A+-awesome!). I wanted to drink over it tonight. I looked at the calendar and realized that I’m probably, deep down, just waiting for the night I allow myself to drink again. (For the record, I would have zero desire to go to the bar to do it!) Am I simply living the same way, just not drinking? Have I made any progress then?

Yeah, I do “need to get out more,” but I refuse to pressure myself right now. I don’t care what anyone else or the little voice inside my head is saying–talk to the hand, bitches! 🙂

Who’s up for a boat trip without booze? I am, I am!

4 Feb

10:16 pm

Well, folks, it happened: I made it through an event–said boat trip to a neighboring island with a gang of drinkin’ buddies–with smoking and drinking all around the entire day, did not partake, and felt amazing the entire time! Like, comfortable just being there and not inhaling smoke and not sucking down liquids (other than Diet Coke). Sure, sometimes I felt like the old woman who wears purple, and that sucked a little. Otherwise, I felt great. And grateful.

It wasn’t that hard, for some reason. And, I had a lot of fun! And, from what I could tell (more on this qualifier below), I didn’t feel awkward or weird; in fact, I mostly felt SUPER-grateful to not be hung over. Last year, I went on a boat trip that was nightmarishly hard, mainly because I got belligerent drunk the night before and was SO hung over I wanted to die. That was a year ago, if that gives you any indication of how bad I felt–and therefore, how grateful I was yesterday.

Yes, it was GOOD to be sober, to be clear, to feel none of the sway and sleepy nausea of being drunk in the sun (how do people drink during the day? I never could, actually, without feeling horrible), to know that I wasn’t going to feel any of it the next day. One big, Ahhhhhhhh.

What WAS hard was hearing today at my NSA (network spinal analysis–I got a gift certificate so figured I’d check it out) appointment that my entire spine, from top to bottom, is in fight-or-flight mode. For the most part, that means locked up, and the muscles around the cord, firing constantly (no wonder I have pain and no wonder I’m tired all the time). The way the analyst put it, it’s like walking around with my arms extended the whole day.

I’ve always carried a lot of tension in my back. It’s where I store my emotional “trauma,” as well as how I “hide.” I can’t help some of it–ingrained response of an incurable introvert. For the past oh, 5 months or so, though, it’s been getting noticeably worse. And, its worsening condition seems to coincide precisely with my soberversary. Could it be that the more I’m sober–the more I have to deal with shit instead of escaping from it–the more I’m actually causing my body to tense up and freak out? I think so.

It sucks. It’s made me wonder if drinking wasn’t so bad after all? I mean, we all have past trauma and present anxiety, and it’s HARD to deal with it nonstop. Hard. I don’t get to wipe it away, even for a few hours. And, there is something to a hangover wherein your body just melts, stops resisting. Like, you don’t have the resources to keep your defenses up, so you actually let them down for however long it takes to get over it. There were times when I was CERTAIN that I’d never felt better the next day than after a few shots of tequila and a burger the night before (though, in those days, I hadn’t also drunk two bottles of wine). Seriously.

I wish I could turn it off, but I can’t. And, with the stress of transitions galore, and being sober and having to confront reality every second of every day… Well, I guess I’m going to have to focus on making some of my new coping mechanisms work–meditation, diverting my attention to the bigger picture/positive, etc. That is, until I can see that life isn’t supposed to be all about “getting through” it.

Sigh. What with all this mental and physical, let’s face it, PAIN–sometimes I actually look forward to shedding my physical body. This mortal coil. This pain in my ass that doesn’t seem to know how to BE in this material reality and go with its grain. All my life it’s been this way, fidgeting in my own skin. I’m TIRED of it. I’m OVER it. It doesn’t seem to get easier, it just seems to go in and out, shape-shifting from one form of expression (pain here, addictive behavior there) to another.

Oh, sparkle-toothed unicorn, where art thou?

Anyway, there I go again. Focus on the positive, remember? Coming up on 17 weeks sober this Thursday. 🙂

Top 10 reasons not to drink, or how I stopped worrying and learned to love Weird and Awkward

1 Feb

5:40 pm

I went out last night. Since getting sober, I haven’t actually been “out out,” as in, out to a bar where other people were drinking and I had to fend for my poor, little, 38-year-old self. I mean, I’ve been to dinner parties, brunches, beach outings, and even bars, but it wasn’t to “go out” (we went to see a band last night).

And, well… I felt so insecure! So uncomfortable! So awkward! Dare I say, Weird and Awkward! And, without booze to hold onto, I felt vulnerable. I felt like I was in college again. GAH. NO!?!? And, I was so far up in my own head that at times, it was really hard to fake that I was having fun.

BUT, I learned something about myself. I’ve known it for a long time–my whole life. Sometimes–like when I was learning calculus–you just need to see it from a different angle to actually GET IT. I got it last night: I create entire realities in my head when it comes to what others are thinking of and about me, and one, probably none of it is true, and two, who gives a shit if it is?

I have to imagine that we all feel insecure sometimes, introverts moreso than extroverts. A mere sampling of my thought “process” during these times:

I wonder if they think I’m boring/I bet they do, I bet they think I’m boring/OH, GOD, why am I being so awkward, what with all these pauses and looking away/I have to look away, but now, oh, fuck, now I bet they think I’m being rude or disinterested when really/you’re standing too close to me and I really don’t know what to say and for some reason, I feel like I’m 18 again and not 38/it hurts I want out it hurts I want out/I want to curl up in a ball and roll on OUT OF HERE

Yup. That’s me. ME. That’s what’s going on inside MY HEAD. However, being sober and having to simply deal with it, I had the opportunity last night to observe these thoughts–not only look at these thoughts, but look at them from a different perspective, namely, not my own.

I glanced at the person I was talking to and told myself, Y’know, he’s probably faking it, too, has no idea what to say, might even be feeling more awkward and shy than I am! I had a quick conversation with a former, let’s just say, drinking buddy in front of the restroom; he got sober last year and we chatted very briefly about how he’s drinking again (and having no luck moderating) and how I’m not. “I feel really good where I’m at right now,” I said, breezily (it’s not like I’m falling apart on the outside, just in one corner of my brain). He was noticeably impressed, and congratulated me. Someone else did, too, when I told him that I had 16 weeks. What I’m saying is, other people are not just NOT thinking I’m weird and awkward in my sobriety, but they’re happy for me, even maybe envious! People are rooting for me. And what am I doing? Creating an entire universe in my head that does not exist, based upon my own self-conscious insecurities.

Almost more importantly, I realized that 85 percent of the peeps in the room were in their own, drunken worlds. Who’s going to even remember me, let alone remember that I was sober?

Hence, my sparkling (the glitter rained down, too, I swear) revelation: I don’t need to drink. In fact, I prefer to be sober. IN SPITE OF HOW AWKWARD I felt, and even in spite of the pangs. The pangs were just my body saying, I want to get the fuck out of here because *I feel uncomfortable.* Somehow, my higher brain pulled through and was like, You need to do this to learn/grow, and honey, you know you really don’t want to drink, right? I wanted to use wine to momentarily allow me to feel protected from my raging thoughts. How sadly ironic, seeing how the point of going out and socializing is to be with others, right?

YET, I didn’t drink. Why?

1. I would be sick the next day. (Do I even have to go into 2-10? Who wants to feel sick the next day?)
2. I would get fuck all done the next day, and then I would hate on myself.
3. I would have a horrible hangover, complete with anxiety/panic, depression/suicidal ideation, and general existential angst. (Shit’s not 19 anymore, peeps! It happens.)
4. I would have stupid conversations that I don’t remember, instead of attempts–give yourself a high five for trying–at meaningful ones that I do!
5. I would act like a fucking idiot, dancing and singing and swaying and in general, being WAY too out there. I’ve been out there; I want to coil myself back in. I’m MINE, not yours.
6. I would say shit I don’t mean, or might regret.
7. I would spend too much money.
8. I would consume too many calories. (Hey, y’all, that belly weight is tough to shed; I’m tired of one step forward, two steps back!)
9. I would fuck up my training body and schedule. (I’m finally getting my running legs (and core strength) back, and I’m on a workout schedule now.)
10. I won’t find out what happens AFTER 16 weeks.

I’d say that number 10 is playing a huge role in keeping me from giving in to my pangs. My “fuck it” moments seem to last not moments, but days–I have time to ruminate over the consequences, and they ultimately end up pointing my face toward the door that says, “Don’t Even THINK About Knocking.” More and more, I see how far I’ve come and I think, Well, if you stop now, you’ll probably NEVER get to 17 weeks, or 6 months, or a year. Could things be monumentally different than they were at day 1, than they are now? Maybe… I’ll just have to keep going to find out.

Another mass shooting. What is wrong with this picture?

15 Dec

12:15 pm

Yeah, it’s a little fuzzy, n’est-ce pas?

I won’t ramble for long, but here’s my take.

Here, in “USA, Inc.”, we have issues. We glorify violence, and honor competition. We promote rampant consumerism. This leads to alienation and isolation, anxiety and depression, to name JUST A FEW. It sort of makes you want to drink. Or, shoot people. I’m not being in any way ironic.

I have NO idea (mainly because the mainstream media chooses not to delve into the mental health issue since it makes a less compelling story than, let’s say, “evil-doings,” but I digress) what was going on inside the head of the shooter, but let me tell you something: there was a point–more than one, honestly–during my middle and high school years that were, actually, low enough to make me contemplate killing of beings, namely myself. The self-loathing and anger that resulted from my feeling ostracized/ridiculed at school for being a good student; for being from a family who weren’t, to be frank, hicks; for simply being creative/artistic (let’s not even go into sexual preferences and/or orientation)–it led me to binge eat and then, binge drink. I couldn’t deal, and most of the time, I didn’t know HOW to deal aside from writing and dancing my emotions out. Unfortunately, I was too inhibited to dance in front of others. Fortunately, I clung to my belief in my grades as my ticket out, as well as my writing–my life raft.

I don’t know what’s going on, really, with today’s kids, but by the time I got to my junior year of college, I had already gone through several major episodes of depression, been through the emotional mindfuck that is bulimia, and likely harbored some serious sociopathic leanings that never materialized, due to simply internalizing my hatred for the people who hated me (or so I thought). I was SO overwhelmed by a sense of “there is something seriously wrong with this place” that I HAD to escape. And I did, to France. Anything to get me away from the billboards, the commercials, the emptiness I felt at having everything and having nothing (and I came from a lower middle class family!). I felt suffocated by what I still see to be the ills of our society, which have NOTHING, really, to do with the “freedom” to own guns (there’s a great article in The New Yorker on the history of the first amendment’s “right to bear arms” clause):

1. Consumerism. The idea that things, instead of experiences, people, and places, will make you happy and/or content; that happiness and contentment, like EVERYTHING worth having, can be had by anything but hard work–attained over a period of years, if not an entire lifetime.
2. Glorification of violence. We can see it in everything from our movies to our wars, this “we’re-gonna-kick-your-head-in-cuz-we-can” mentality. (When I volunteered clearing rubble in [beautiful island] after the [natural disaster], the Brits and Aussies nicknamed the heaviest sledgehammer “‘Merica” because it could “smash a lot of shit and leave a mess behind.”)
3. Glorification of competition, egotism, greed, etc. Why aren’t more “feminine” ideologies instilled in us throughout our lives, like cooperation, conciliation, nonviolent conflict resolution? I guess I’m generalizing here, but how many of you would argue against the fact that most (all?) of these mass shootings have been perpetrated my men, and wars are declared mainly (exclusively?) by male leaders?

I wish it was different, but when I left “USA, Inc.” in 1994 for Tours and then Paris, France, I figuratively never looked back. Now, I’m living in [beautiful island], which I might consider a second-world country but would certainly agree that it’s NOT the mainland–and I feel like I can breathe, like I might never return to “that place.”

Anyhoo…how does this pertain to drinking? Well, all I can say is, I’ve never experienced this kind of grief, so I have no idea what I would do. BUT, I hope that I would not pick up. I mean, drinking almost seems pointless in situations like this; which, in a sense, is a testament to its futility in the face of confronting the things life throws our way.

I wish peace to all the families involved in this shiteous crime. That is all.

Sex and sobriety — it’s actually possible?

12 Nov

5:29 pm

Yes, indeed. It actually IS.

SAY WHAT?

Without going into too much detail — har har — I have a few minutes before yet ANOTHER PAIN IN MY ASS MEETING takes up the hours that I somewhat dread anyway, between 4:30 and 7; so, I thought I’d say hello and, um, dump some heavy thoughts on you. Yes, I’m good at that.

As has become apparent to me, most people who drink alcoholically are also doing it to medicate, avoid, or in general, escape. For me, I used booze. I used it for many things: to not feel bored, to not feel sad, to avoid confronting existential problems, like, What should I do with my life? and, How am I going to spend the next few minutes? and, If I spend them wrong, does that mean I’m a loser? or, Man, I don’t know what to do first, maybe I’ll drink to avoid deciding? or, I don’t know how to have fun or take a break, so I’ll drink to avoid dealing with figuring that out. And, on and on.

I realized, long before I quit drinking, that I had a very healthy fear of intimacy; sex, of course, but relationships, in general. I used booze to both avoid them and avoid having to deal with this fear while sober. As I discovered, you get exactly what you’re looking for. I was afraid of dating, of having sex sober, so I drank and got what I really wanted: pathetic, drunk sex with partners who were NOWHERE NEAR relationship material. (Then again, neither was I, and maybe that was also a variable in the equation!)

I have only dated three men in my life, long-term; the last actual relationship I was in was oh, about 8 years ago. Yes, I’ve been single for most of my 30s, mainly out of fear of being known; out of fear of someone — who is much cooler and better and more awesome, of course — finding out just how boring, or fidgety, or indecisive, or lazy, or uncreative, or [insert your favorite diss here] I really am. I avoided not just relationships, but sex. I simply couldn’t get myself to do it, sober. Too close, too intimate. What if we locked eyes and I had to reveal a feeling? What if he expected to have a, gasp!, conversation with me, sober? What would I say? Would he be interested? What if I was depressed, or unsure, or crazy, or kooky, but not his kind of kooky? Would he be OK with that? What if (IF? LOL) he was boring, or shallow, or clueless, or lame, or whatever, and I had to pretend to like him because I was lonely; or because I wanted to give someone a chance in order to feel less “strange bird”-esque for preferring to spend my nights — and days — alone, doing my own thing, at ease and deriving pleasure from that?

Best to just be drunk, to avoid it all, and then hung over, to excuse myself quietly.

What a horrible way to live, eh? And, what about me?, I ask, as I read and remember the self-berating monologue that must have been going on repeat in the back of my mind for years. YEARS.

I had a lot of social anxiety growing up, and it manifested in extreme shyness, in overstudying, in spending most of my non-school-related time alone, writing or reading; and then, sort of following my twin (or, did he follow me?) to the same university; and then, finally, discovering binge eating and binge drinking as a way to avoid it all AND make it feel better at the same time. Fast forward from my 20s to my 30s; I kept drinking the wine, and left all the other stuff behind. Or, so I thought.

Funny thing is, I had a LOT of intimate, and amazing, relationships with women over the years. And, with men who were not men I wanted to date or have sex with. So, it wasn’t all bad, but it got a lot WORSE when I started to drink to ridiculous excess, put work and career success way ahead of love, and isolate.

These days, I’m basking in the fruit of my labors: I ended up entering a relationship with a friend who I’ve known for 10 years, and I feel safe. I don’t know if he knows how difficult it was for me to basically feel the fear and do it anyway, but I’m glad I did. I don’t think there’s a magic bullet; like everything sober, it takes personal work to talk myself out of actually believing that it matters when there’s an “awkward” moment. I don’t think sober folks deal with anything different, either; they may have just learned to confront love and sex earlier than I did. Who knows?

Anyway, I could go ON and ON about this, but I’ll stop for now. Off to a new meeting. I’m a bit…anxious? I’ve never been to this one, and well, I haven’t heard much about it. My gut says that it’ll be weird, and awkward, but hey, Weird and Awkward are my closest friends these days and I promised them yesterday that I’d come out and play again today, so…

Bye, y’all! 32 days, btw!

Going to my first AA meeting tonight, and…

16 Oct

1:50 pm

it’s a miracle? The fact that I’ve only drunk about nine or 10 times since June 13th can’t be explained otherwise, can it? Maybe I’d just had enough.

Well, I’m working. Yay! A goal made real. I have two ongoing writing gigs and a possible third coming up on Thursday, all through “word of mouth” (or, friends of friends, coworkers of coworkers). Imagine what I could do if I actually put the work into pitching, reporting, and writing? All in due time. I beat myself up a lot, nothing is ever good enough. I want wine now, to deal with that feeling, but I know I don’t, can’t, and refuse anyway, so there. Fuck off, wolf!

My boyfriend is going to take me to my first (well, second) AA meeting (on the island) tonight, at a church downtown. It’s a woman’s meeting. Yes, I’m feeling a bit…uncomfortable, but I can do it. I mean, if I can get through:
moving out of [cold west coast city] and leaving a/my “life” behind (though, I still have my storage unit in [cold east coast city], so if all else fails, I could always move into that ;));
spending a week with first, my mom, then, my dad;
receiving and replying to nasty hate-mail from my brother’s gf (and the whole situation coming to a head…);
settling into a new life living with someone (gulp);

I CAN DEFINITELY HANDLE INTRODUCING MYSELF AS A DRUNK WHO WANTS TO NOT BE ONE.

Anyway, will check back in later, friends!

(Once again, this morning, I realized how awesome it is to have this community. And, it never would have happened if I hadn’t made the initiative to get sober. Where it came from, I still don’t know. The closest approximation I can make is, I had had enough.)

soberisland

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runningfromwine

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The joys, benefits and challenges of living alcohol free

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Mental Health @ Home

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Finding my contented self the sober way

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from liquid courage to sober courage

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The personal and professional ramblings of a supposedly middle aged crazy cat lady

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MY Journey towards Losing 'da Booze Voice within and regaining self-control

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A blog about getting sober

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a life in progress ... sans alcohol

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Getting sober to be a better mother, wife, and friend

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the musings and reflections of one person's mental amusement park

TRUDGING THROUGH THE FIRE

-Postcards from The Cauldron

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