Tag Archives: withdrawal

Not PAWS, but maybe PTSD?

16 Jan

3:16 pm

Well, you guys have got me thinking again–so, of course, I have to follow up on my last post.

Lately, I’ve been feeling burnt out by the littlest of things, the slightest pressures, the shortest to-do lists. Or, maybe the to-do lists aren’t that short, but my energy definitely does not match my ambition. I no longer seem to have the get-up-and-go that I used to when I was drinking. Or, rather, the go-go-go, and chase-chase-chase.

I think I was simply running on fumes when I was on The Wine. Like, my adrenaline was constantly up, and my immune system was running on overdrive–no wonder I could do and go and stay up and drink, and it seemed like I felt much more alive than I do now. Or, was I just wired? Actually, I was probably a nervous wreck, and my body was about to go from saying “Hello, we can’t keep you amped up like you’re escaping from a pack of hyenas much longer!” to “We quit, bitch!”.

The more I think about it, the more I don’t really buy PAWS, or, post-acute-withdrawal syndrome. The main issue I have, after having quit drinkin’, is getting used to not being fueled by the anticipation of getting drunk. I have to say, it is still a struggle for me to not feel anxious, sometimes panicky, and often sad whenever I realize (daily, still sometimes more than once a day) that I can’t get buzzed. I used wine as a motivating factor for so long (i.e., If I can get through this day, then I can have wine), as a way to combat the stress and fatiguing aspects of my life. Now that it’s not even an option, what is my go-to source of strength? What becomes my motivating factor? I mean, at this point, I don’t NEED to work full-time and/or compete and achieve in the “real world;” I sort of dread the day I have to go back to that shit. What I’ve come to understand is that while there are plenty of people who use substances to propel them on their career paths, I cannot–and don’t want–to be one of them anymore.

And, while I know about most of the physical damage I’ve caused to my body, I cringe–stricken, to an extent, as if I have a mild case of PTSD–at some of the things I’ve done and lived through while blacked out drunk. Waking up in bed with a stranger? Spending entire evenings out, with only fleeting glimpses of what I might have said or where I might have gone? Cursing out strangers (or friends, or bartenders) on every other street corner on the LES? Getting into a fight, being shoved, and breaking my arm as I crashed my shoulder onto the sidewalk? And then, passing out and having to deal with it the next day, so hung over (and in such excruciating pain) I could barely keep my eyes open as I stumbled from ER to ER, trying to find one where the line wasn’t hours long? Spending nights (on more than one occasion) in jail, alternately screaming belligerently at the cops through my blackout and curled up in the fetal position as I waited for my court papers to come through; communing for days with 20 other women over a non-working toilet, rotten cheese sandwiches and sour milk, and gymnastics mats that served as our “beds” in a 40-degree holding cell? YIKES. I could go on and on.

Moving back to [cold west coast city], pining for a romantic relationship, for friendships, for an old self–all of which had been thoroughly extinguished years earlier (and, if they hadn’t, DEFINITELY flitted out to a mass of dank coals during the ensuing 18 months that I continued living there)? Drinking entire weekends away, so that my first encounter with daylight was at 3 pm on a Sunday, when I would walk to the Safeway to get more wine? Drinking several times for entire weeks at a clip: commuting while drunk, working while drunk, passing out in my cube while drunk? Drinking to obliterate my nerves at having to go back to work the next day, not sure what my coworkers heard or saw, not sure how the shuttle driver deposited me at the train station because I had blacked out hours before leaving work and don’t remember anything of the commute home? I could go on. And on and on and on.

Post-traumatic stress disorder? Yup, I think I got it.

But you know what? I’m through it, on the other side, and I feel great! Stronger, calmer, and much more capable of taking care of myself. I obviously was taking my anger out on the wrong people, including me, but, that’s behind me now. I am onto a better–and very different–way.

And, all this is to simply illustrate that yes, these things can depress and/or overwhelm, but we get past them, forgive and forget for our own sakes, and deal with the memories of how they made us feel. Slowly, but surely. And in our own time and graces.

All in due time, I keep telling myself. All in due time…

I think I might have PAWS

15 Jan

1:53 pm

And, we’re not talkin’ about the cute kind! (I have baby giraffe hooves, remember?)

PAWS = post-acute-withdrawal syndrome. The symptoms can range from everything from depression to anxiety to fatigue to “physical coordination problems” (uh, had that covered BEFORE I quit), for months or years after you stop drinking.

Say what?! YEARS?!?! Come ON. No, no, no, no, no, no, no!

First, I have to go through withdrawal, then I have to make it 90 days, and now, I have to keep going through withdrawal, indefinitely? NOT FAIR. (Well…you did get yourself into this mess, Drunk Drunk Girl; now you have to get yourself out.)

I’m finally, after 90 days, starting to feel less moody, and less pouty, when it comes to drinking. To feel less depressed when I tell myself that once again, No, you cannot drink tonight, or Yes, you have to at least try to convince yourself that this (everything) might be even a little bit fun without wine. Le sigh. I’m beginning to know–in my heart AND mind–that drinking equates to not getting things done, which is what I really want right now. Those to-do lists are simply popping, and I finally want to dive in, like I used to.

However, my body is not really wanting to dive in, let’s just say. I feel TIRED a lot. Like, I only have a finite amount of both mental and physical energy, and then I have to stop and go to bed. My days could very well consist of eating, walking the dogs, and resting/sleeping/zoning. My “go go go” tenacity seems gone, zapped. Like, I cannot IMAGINE, really, holding down a full-time job right now, let alone living again the lifestyle I was in my drinking days: up at 6 am, in bed by 2 am, with an 18-hour day, a full meal, and two bottles of red wine to digest in those 4 hours before I had to get up and do it all over again. I’m OVER the rat race, for sure, but it has a lot to do with realizing that I don’t want to, let alone can’t, spend the next 20 years vying for prizes that mean next to nothing to me, alongside people who are as unhealthy in their outlook on life as I had become.

I DO wonder, though, if my soreness (here, there, everywhere) is not related to too much artificial sweetener (i.e., Diet Coke). I read that somewhere, and it stuck. Lately, my knees, both of ’em, really hurt when I run. I went for a 4- or 5-mile hike yesterday–and am BURNT today. Jesus! I used to (like, less than a year ago) be able to do 10-, 12-mile hikes–and drink to blackout afterward–and feel fine when it came to my muscles and joints. Hmm… I wonder if there wasn’t good stuff in wine that was actually buffering me against the inevitable decline toward old age. 😉

In any case, it’s much better than it was even a month ago, but the physical fatigue is concerning. As is my continuing desire to emulate my dogs (wake, walk, eat, sleep, repeat).

Does anyone have anything to add or contribute? It seems that the defining characteristics of PAWS and its “progression” or “remission” are about as nebulous as the definition of alcoholism, so I’m all ears (or paws–har har)!

96 days and not lookin’ back…right now, anyway. 😉

PAWS, WAA, disorder, and, well, sleep

15 Jan

12:59 am

The last is what I’m going to be doing ASAP, so, y’all’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear about:
1. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS)
2. Weird and Awkward (WAA) moments (i.e., real life), and my how-to tips on how to get through them sans alcohol
3. MOST IMPORTANTLY, my germinating hypothesis (I’m sure it’s been proposed, and I’ll be the first to admit that I have not read any addiction literature but plan to get on PubMed soon and start Finding Out): Addiction is not a disease, it’s a disorder–of thought, yes, but of memory and similarly, neuronal circuitry. Yes, there is a huge difference (in my mind at least) between a disease and a disorder. Drinking causes disease, but addiction is a disorder, a dysfunctional set of behaviors.

However, I hiked my arse off today on a somewhat impromptu trip to [beautiful island], so I’m beat. I guess it’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

And while I’m here, if I’m honest, I DO want to drink. I said I didn’t, but…I want the release, I want the buzz. Yet, when I re-think it, as I must do over and over, again and again, day in and day out–I really don’t want it THAT MUCH, or, at all. What would it do for me, at one in the morning? Nada. To boot, I’d have a hangover tomorrow, calories to burn, and well, I’d have LOST. Lost the game, the fight, my righteous edge, my newly reclaimed power (will blog about that soon, too), whatever. I’d have lost.

So much to share, friends, but I’ll see you tomorrow–calm, sober, and well-rested. (At 90-some days, I can’t really imagine putting up with being sick and fuzzy-headed en route to the sack. Eww. I’m glad I stuck it out, simply, and that I worked through the shit to get here. This is nicer, way nicer. The wolf voice screaming in my head at night to “drink drink drink” is finally gone; and perchance do I see my sparkle-toothed unicorn, smiling my way? YES! She’s hanging out with a baby giraffe, fluffing glitter out of her mane every time she turns her head to smile at me. (A sparkle-toothed unicorn pulls my water wagon, as she has been doing since my “first” first day of sobriety back in June. Well, why not?) 😉 )

Another lethargic day…

23 Aug

5:15 pm

Maybe I need to change my diet? Take a nap? The thought of doing any work makes me feel anxious and makes my head feel like it’s inflating more and and more with air. I wonder if I have a migraine? Doubt it; it’s not as much pain as I feel nauseated and dizzy, like I’m sea sick. And, I can’t seem to concentrate on typing this, let alone slog through my anxiety over flying “home” to [cold west coast city] (where I haven’t been living since June) and working, for real, on science writing stuff. Takes a brain. Don’t have a brain.

When I get back, I think I’m going to go on a strict diet of low-sugar, no meat. I’ve been drinking WAY too much Diet Coke since I quit drinkin’, and honestly, I think it’s worse — much worse — for me than the loads of wine I was taking in. Granted, the wine gives me liver problems, steals brain cells, and makes my belly fat, but…what the fuck does Diet Coke do? I know for SURE that it’s making me addicted to it, and to sugar, in a way that feels (well, yesterday it felt) almost “diabetic.” The urge to eat a sugary muffin yesterday before I felt like I was about to pass out was startingly strong. I can’t help but crave sweets now that I’m not drinking, and it’s been taking all my willpower to eat well and not replace the binge drinking with the occasional binge eating. All in all, I’ve had a very healthful summer, but lately, I’ve fallen off the wagon when it comes to moderating my diet soda intake as well as working out. Can’t WAIT to get that goin’ on again when I get back. Yoga, jogging, hiking, and possibly some swimming…same as here, but on the regular. And more of it.

Jesus, my head hurts. Feels swollen inside, is making me want to close or squint my eyes in order to see straight. Hmm…

Working and alcohol withdrawal = TMI!

22 Aug

4:03 pm

So, I was looking up long-term (or, as the doctors call it, “post-acute”) withdrawal symptoms for long-term alcohol abuse, and how long they last. Ugh. Nothing specific, but it seems more than likely that it could last for months, or longer! I think I definitely have some of these symptoms, like mood swings, general sluggishness, inability to focus, a lack of efficiency in my entire thought process, and now, a headache-ness (neck, back, and head pain that feels like vertigo and/or sea sickness) that is hard to work around. The headache is bizarre simply cuz I never get headaches. I doubt it’s got anything to do with withdrawal, but…I did feel ill and a general “detox”-type feeling for the first month or so after I quit drinkin’, so who knows?

I know I should be patient; I will have to be in order to “re-enter” my world of science writing and journalism. I haven’t worked in journalism since 2010 and haven’t worked a real job since early this year. Journalism takes a LOT of editing skills when it comes to information absorption, and the entire process of “keeping up” on news and journals can be more labor intensive, mentally speaking, than learning the actual presented information. Ack, fucking information! TOO MUCH OF IT. Plus, maybe I’m legitimately overwhelmed with the amount of changes that I’ve subjected myself to over the past year, as well as the number of decisions I have to make soon (I’m moving, starting my own freelancing business, looking forward to possibly traveling and/or long-term volunteering in the next few months, getting sober)…

Anyway, the point is, do headaches come with the territory? And, how long will the withdrawal symptoms, mainly the mood swings, the lack of “wham-bam” energy, and the indecision/feeling overwhelmed and overloaded by the smallest of things, last?

Plus, wasn’t I over the worst of it, having gone 60 days like, a week or so ago? (I’m on day 71 minus 2…)

(I *am* additionally distracted, though, by the fact that we’re looking down on Isaac, which as of an hour ago, was going to be passing by our island as a tropical storm! I’ve never lived through a storm or a hurricane, so that could get interesting.)

Never goin’ back to detoxing…

20 Aug

3:40 pm

A short post:

I fell off the wagon twice after 60 days of being sober and man, it sucked. But, it was quite anticlimactic in a way — same blackout, same hangover, same feeling like a piece of shit. BUT, I realized two things:

1. I will never again have to detox and go through withdrawal — both physical and emotional — or cravings like I did during the first 3 to 5 weeks of being sober. That was hard, and for the most part, I was sick, had intense cravings, and felt very, very lonely. BUT, I will NEVER have to go through that again! Sure, I drank last week and did and said some stupid things and spent two days hung over, but…no one and nothing can subtract my 60 days. So, it’s not at all like I’m starting over. I’m simply starting again continuing to build on my stronger body and mind.

2. I like being sober. I like the consistency and the predictability of it. Last night I had zero desire or inclination to drink; we had people over, and I even drank WATER as I was talking to them.

It’s funny, but I used to be a total dork, didn’t drink at all until college, and used to go to frat parties and pour my beers in the garbage cans when no one was looking. (I hated beer.) Then I went to France and discovered wine (and that I had a binge eating disorder), but that’s another story. Point is, I used to hate my old, goody-goody self, the “mold” that I was cast — and trapped, suffocating — in by my family, my small town, my siblings, my friends. (Myself, too, but I felt like a victim.) Which, I’m pretty sure, is one of the many reasons I started and continued for so long to “party” and binge drink, just to prove to everyone how “cool” I actually was.

Now, though, there is nothing to prove and maybe sober IS the new black. At the end of the day, being drunk is a prison, not an escape; learning that there is and never was anything to escape from — I can simply leave, say no, or change my perspective and/or reaction — is key to me staying sober and embracing living sober, or rather, LIFE. Time to be that dork again. 😉

Drunky drunk girl says, My first sober wedding! Whew…glad that’s over!

5 Jul

3:15 pm

I just returned from a wedding in Seattle.  AND…dun dun dun, still drink-free!  WOOT!

(Granted, I feel like a truck hit me, and have been feeling like, TIRED as fuck, for the past two out of the THREE, yes, three, weeks of being sober, but I’ll get to that in another post.  Who knew?  I sure didn’t.  Well, I know now — sobriety is like getting sick after weeks of running yourself ragged, amped up on adrenaline while the rest of your organs are crying out, Rest me, god damn it!)

Anyway, some things I learned at this wedding:

Old, good friends are the best sober buddies.  So are former drunks.  So are pregnant people.  All in all, I had a great amount of support from the handful of friends who have known me for 15 years — and seen my drunky drunky ways in action, over and over and over again.  The last time I saw these peeps, I:  blacked out and went off at the bar about losing my “cool” black jacket, which I simply left on some barstool, which I was banging on and on about for several hours, I’m sure; blacked out and took the FREIGHT elevator instead of the one for hotel guests, ended up passing out inside the thing, and being woken up at 4 am (in my own piss, naturally) by one of the group who was the only member of its ad hoc search party who knew enough to “think like a drunk person” and realize that maybe I had taken the wrong elevator; blacked out during the baseball game and did who knows what, and then won the shirt (we have an annual “t-shirt contest” that involves vomit) by throwing up behind one of our SUVs in the parking lot after the game — turns out tailgating in the dark AFTER the game is not a good idea if you’ve been drinking PBRs since 1 pm that afternoon…

Guy “friends” who also wouldn’t mind getting in your pants WANT you to get silly drunk and don’t, actually, appreciate your sobriety.

Sitting around a table for hours talking with your friends while sober ain’t so bad.  It’s nice to remember the conversations and it’s nice to not be the asshole stumbling out of the bar, who may or may not have hit on someone stupid, let someone stupid hit on her, said something stupid, or did something otherwise stupid.

Karaoking to “Don’t Stop Believin'” while sober ain’t so bad.

Flying cross-country while sober makes up for having to catch a 7:15 am flight.  In fact, not having to fly either hung the fuck over or still drunk makes up for like, every morning flight I’ve ever taken.  (There is nothing like passing through the AA terminal at JFK and realizing that the last time you did so, you were blazing drunk, having stayed up all night downing prosecco with a local guy “friend” (see above), and preparing to board an international flight headed to a post-disaster zone to volunteer for several months.  Ahh, the memories… Seared into my mind and bloodstream — I can still feel that sense of impending doom/anxiety/pure anger that comes with being drunk for so many consecutive hours and THEN having to hustle to like, an airport.)

I’m sure there are other things, but those are what come to mind.  I must say that I am proud (and bewildered) to be closing in on ONE MONTH sober.  It feels…great/horrible?  I’m not sure which, but it’s my own curiosity, I suppose, that’s keeping me on track now:  What will sobriety surprise me with next?

More later!  Thanks for reading, whoever is out there.  It helps.  It really does.

14 days sober and I’m pissed, says Drunky drunk girl

26 Jun

11:18 pm

And I shouldn’t be!  I should be seeing rainbows and unicorns, but I’m seeing red.  Well, pink.  I chalk it up to the anger not subsiding but getting stronger during this strange phase of withdrawal, exacerbated by my agitation and annoyance at having to grind it out every fucking day.  No drinky makes Drunky Drunk Girl pissy.

First, let me tell you that I do applaud myself.  I do appreciate that it’s getting easier, if only easier to resist the nightly (and sometimes daytime) cravings.  And yes, I feel much better physically.  Yes, I LOVE not being hung over.  Yes, I’ve gotten a lot more done.  Yet…  I feel sad, I guess is the best way to put it (in addition to irritable).  Life is sad without wine, it really is!  Sad in that it’s boring, in a way; uneventful; mellow.  There’s no excitement, no cerebral buzz to look forward to.  “Normal,” mundane life is just not enough.  It never was, I’m afraid.  (Is this me talking, or the mental and emotional crutch that wine is?  I know it’s the latter, at least I hope, but I simply can’t FEEL it to be truth yet.)

Looking back on these two weeks, I’ve come to realize that I’m agitated most of the time by the struggle not to drink, by the desire to get buzzed.  I’ve also come to accept that I drank not only to ESCAPE from reality, but also to ENHANCE my daily existence.  And that’s not a bad thing!  Yes, people, it’s not just about escape, it’s about the good stuff, too.  I like (liked?  sigh) drinking because I like how it augments, or adds, to what would otherwise be a steady, but mundane, list of days, months, and years.  I’d venture to say that’s why most of us drink in the first place.

And, when I think of those people who wrote me off, those who showed such little empathy, I can’t help but fume.  I mean, if it had been more than once for most, if it had been a constant thing, and if I hadn’t apologized so profusely — if I had INTENDED to hurt and this was a common thread that matched my SOBER BEHAVIOUR…  All I’ve got for them is one big, fat Fuck you.  Guess who’s getting sober?  Guess who’s been dealing with the remorse and the self-loathing for years?  Guess who’s gotten stronger day by day in her struggle to recognize her failings and improve?  What have you done, aside from pretend you have no issues and live in denial, which is what allows you to so easily judge others?  To them I say, Good fucking riddance.*

In fact, fuck AA, too.  I have issues with AA, but mainly I resent the approach because not only does the program demonize your problem with compulsive behaviour (which is a brain fart, not a moral failing or flaw, btw), but it also puts the blame squarely on you such that it’s always the people you’ve hurt, inadvertantly, who become the victims.  What about the drinker as victim?  I mean, I feel like part of what made me — and no doubt others — start drinking too much was a traumatic experience early in life where WE WERE THE VICTIMS!  Most people drink to self-medicate some hurt, some previously induced or present pain.  Are not we, too, the victims of our drinking disorder?  Shouldn’t we get some empathy, some understanding, and not simply lumped into a hot-mess pile of “fucked up people who deserve to be unhappy?”

Granted, I take full responsibility for my actions, but all I ask of people, especially those who have written me off either directly or in the back of their minds (Oh, she’s NEVER going to get well, she’ll drink herself to death…  all the while HOPING that I don’t, since that means seeing me happy and productive and gasp!, possibly a competitive threat):  have some empathy.  TRY.  And, just for shits and giggles, because I’m feeling rather irritable, here’s the letter I would write (if I was in the 12-step) to the people I’ve hurt who have written me off*:

Dear Judgmental Asshole:

I’ve already apologized a million times, and I refuse to continue to live in the past, prostrating myself before you over and over.  I’m done apologizing.  You don’t have the right to refuse my apology anymore.  And, let me tell you, as I exit my dark night of the soul and you enter (or will be soon entering) yours:  I hope it’s long, painful, and arduous.  I probably won’t be there when you ask for my help, my understanding, my empathy and dare you need it, my forgiveness.

SEE?  Sobriety isn’t the rainbows and unicorns it’s cracked up to be from the outside looking in.

*Disclaimer:  There are marvelous people in my life — brothers, mothers, lovers, friends — who have done nothing but empathize, check in, deal, manage, and support me and my belligerent alter-ego during the past near-decade of my out-of-control drinking, and I salute, honor, love, and admire them infinitely.

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