Tag Archives: work

Information–I used to love you, but I want to kill you

27 Mar

11:05 am

I am not sure if anyone understands just how much Too Much Information triggers me. Maybe it’s a legitimate pressure–if I can’t keep up, then I should bow out of this profession. Maybe I’m simply addicted to information? I should go online and search for a support group: Information-aholics Anonymous?

Today, I’m supposed to be Taking The Day Off: that means, for ONCE, no working. And, by no working, I mean, not just no story pitching, writing, or “job searching” (which, I admit, is part of the freelance game; I’ve had several job applications turn into freelance work); but also no sorting through scientific press releases; no stressing out about finding an outlet for a story that I wrote but that was subsequently rejected by the magazine that I thought I had it matched with; no checking journals, blogs, and the other quintillion sources of science news. And, it means, no other news, which I tend to do AFTER I “breeze” through the science and health news–radio stations that I like, talk shows, mainstream news, magazines here, there, and everywhere.

You get the picture. Information is endless these days, and if you’re not careful, it could blow your mind.

And then there’s social media. Dun dun dun. I was just commenting on someone’s blog about how back when I first started blacking out and getting angry, I would always take it out on my phones and my laptops–I am embarrassed to say that I have thrown oh, about 10 to 15 phones to the ground in drunken rages, and banged the shit out of at least three or four laptops (yes, my drinking was a lot more expensive than just the cost of the wine). And, I knew back then that I was missing real connection, and I was sick to death of the fake stuff: connecting to people through phones and through computers (via chat, email, and Facebook).

I’m learning balance these days, but it’s hard. If your profession is literally, dealing with information, then you can’t quite say, Fuck it, I’m quitting Facebook and never reading the news. If you want to be in this profession, I’m finding, you have got to find balance, which means, learning how and when to get just enough information to “keep up,” but not enough to drive yourself to drink.

Sigh. It’s my day off, and I’m already feeling that feeling I get–tight chest, upset stomach, a feeling of defeat washing over my brain. And I haven’t even gotten my social media fix yet! You know, I hate Facebook these days, not so much because of the rather “ill” interactions it encourages–I don’t really post anymore–but because I Just Can’t Keep Up. With all the information. And, it stresses me out. It doesn’t necessarily make me want to drink, but…it does something. Let’s not even talk about Twitter (which I use sparingly, mainly because I basically think it’s nonessential to my career at this point, and for lack of a better word, masturbatory–like, the same people re-tweet and post about each other, and then, they all convince themselves that that news piece or idea or meme is “important” or “hot”).

Yet, before I even got out of bed this morning, I was on my phone, checking the science news press releases. And then, after popping out of bed, and making it (ahh, diversion!)…I was on my laptop, checking work email, reminding myself to go to one of the big science journal’s web sites to see what came out today, and, then, to my blog to check on all y’all–which, I have to say, is NOT part of the cycle and is something I really enjoy and don’t consider stressful!

Oh, well. It’s all part of my story, right? We all have different triggers, things that bug us to our cores and make us want to numb out; mine happens to be this information thing, getting older and not being able to parse it all as enthusiastically as before, and not really giving a shit as much as I care about other stuff (inner knowledge, silence, listening to the birds and wind draw patterns on the inside of my brain, for example).

Most of the time, I don’t allow myself to consider this a real stressor–I mean, it’s not like I’m chasing kids, or commuting three hours one way (I did that once, for 18 months, remember?), or taking pictures in a war zone, or triaging AIDS patients in some poor African country? But sometimes, I think all of that would be preferable to playing with information all day.

At least I have the day “off,” right?

My drinking past: a reminder

15 Mar

1:05 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s the end of the world as we know it…and I feel fine. 🙂

HALT–Hungry, Angry, Lack of control, Tired

12 Feb

8:09 pm

HALT. Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. I am hearing that phrase ringing truer and truer the longer I maintain my sobriety. For me, that’d be, Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lack of control, or Tired.

My biggest triggers are indeed hunger and anger–both make me feel like I might want to drink. However, even bigger ones are feeling like I don’t have control and feeling fatigued (sick, or ill, comes in here, too, and maybe that should be put into “lack of control”). I realized this today, as I was interpreting my life as being super-out of my control. A few tears welled up in my eyes as I checked off all the shit that I simply DO NOT have control over:

work
the energy to attain said paycheck
my constant back pain
my ongoing sleep disturbances/insomnia
my water quality (we have cistern water)
my REACTIONS to all this lack of control
etc. (this would include, for example, my greying hair–haha)

In writing this, I realize now that I do, in fact, have control–or the ability to control–all these things! I just have to consider different options.

Obviously, I don’t have control of the world, of the way things happen. BUT, I realized today that there are some things that I NEED control over, to a certain extent, in order to remain sober, basically. And, that what I CAN do is construct a life that feels safe, in that certain elements are there/controlled for.

When it comes to work, I know I need to keep it challenging, but I’ve learned to take breaks, turn it off when need be (well, learning how not to exhaust myself before it’s too late and I hear wolfie breathing down my neck), and set only attainable goals. Once upon a time, I used to believe that “Make your goals unattainable” was a perfect motto to live by. Now? No. Just, no. Not if you’re someone like me, who goes crazy trying. I mean, of course, we all have to work, and we might not like that; but, I can choose to let’s say, write freelance instead of going into an offices every day and doing marketing copy. I can control for the amount I earn, and the amount of time I put in (unless, of course, I’m a new freelance writer, which I am!). Plus, for me, going into an offices adds a dimension of “pain” that is hard for my younger self–and sacral spine–to imagine.

So, OK, I have control over my choice of work. And a relative degree of control over the amount of incidental pain I have to endure every day. Yet…with that tradeoff comes the uncertainty of the freelance paycheck–will I or won’t I either have enough work or have enough energy to find enough work? That, I’d say, is my number one item in the “I feel like I have no control” column. Right under this is my reaction to this kind of stress, which is negative. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have control over my reactions, and I react, and I feel angry and frustrated–just like I did when I was drinking, and man, it is the exact same feeling and it makes me want to drink. Of course, I calm myself down better now, and talk myself off the edge fairly efficiently, but, I wish I didn’t let myself get there in the first place.

Sometimes a lack of initiative on my part is really just a lack of stamina. I can’t go as hard as I used to; or, I simply don’t want to. Or, I don’t have wine to fuel me. I get tired faster, and what with being so PAWS-y for so long, I am just now recovering my powers of concentration. The past month this has been waning, and it worries me. Being tired–or sick, I guess–hasn’t helped, and that just makes me angry. Very mature, I know.

So, I don’t know what this post is about except, if you need more control, take it. There are some things that need to be there, and that are OK to hold an iron fist above–especially if the stress of not having that control is going to make you wander aimlessly back to the wine aisle in the grocery store. If you need a break, take it. It’s not worth drinking over. If you get extra hungry, or extra tired, or extra angry–hello, PMS!–sleep on it. Manage it, but let some things slide (it’s OK to binge on ice cream for dinner, says Dr. Drunky Drunk Girl; it’s more than OK to sleep for 10 hours if you have the time). It’s not worth drinking over. If you feel like you have no control, maybe you just don’t have enough control? Getting sober is hard and takes a lot of focus and concentration–you are basically re-wiring your brain–you need some things to be taken care of, and not flying around, willy nilly, you know? Maybe you need to construct a tighter household, so to speak; pull some things off the burners; cut the last 14 items off your to-do list–they probably aren’t that important anyway.

Sometimes still, it’s hard to figure out if I’m tired for real, or if I’m burnt out (I see my energy to pitch stories coming in daily, weekly, and monthly waves), or if I’m just being PAWS-y and need a break because my sober brain isn’t ready yet for the big leagues. It’s hard to figure out how, exactly, to react differently, and to gain more control over my reactions. But, I know if I try to change the course of my reactions, even when it feels like I’ve gone too far in, I can do it.

What helped me today to curb my emotional reaction (to the stress of the pressures of freelance, of feeling nostalgic for my grad school years as I contemplate my hourly wage at my new job)? Shutting myself in the office for the first hour or so, and then, taking a little walk later morning. And then, remembering that I am a new me, and I am no longer the girl who reacts violently and carries it with her to the end of the day and the end of three wine bottles. I am a new me, and I do things differently. And, this is how I do it now. And then, realizing that right then and there, I am re-learning how to do things, and how to do things better than I used to. I am practicing this and I am turning the tables. It’s weird, and painful, but good.

Sometimes I feel like a child. With navel-gazing powers that rival a superhero’s. Yes, I’m ready for a change of scenery!

A little empathy goes a long way

7 Feb

10:53 pm

The other day, someone reached out to me with a simple apology, and, in a split second, I “forgave” him. I put it in quotes because while I was sitting here thinking that I did all the wrong, he was sitting there thinking that he did. We had some fucked up drinking times, and we both said and did erratic, hostile things. All that being said, it took ONE second, and I zipped up all the jagged pieces, threaded the necklace together, and tied it whole. ONE SECOND.

We’ve been friends for years, so it makes sense. I mean, how could you throw away years of friendship over a bruised ego? Can’t you see through the armor to the person you know? I’ve often thought about this when it comes to other friends, some lifelong, who have since “written me off” because my drinking became offensive enough to hurt them, but not inconvenient enough for them to help me, tell me to get help, or tell me to fuck off and then, get help. I’ve often wondered why hardly anyone in my life–colleagues, close friends and family, I mean–told me to get help when I so obviously needed it! No one ever mentioned my drinking to blackout in front of them at family gatherings, for instance, the one sure sign that I was drinking too much. They talked behind my back, sure. But, why didn’t anyone ever say anything to me? It was too easy for them to write me off, to fire me, to “un-family member” me. Wasn’t I worth at least a shred of concern?

I’m glad this person reminded me that not everyone is like that. There are friends who have empathy, who show concern, who trade in their ego for the bigger picture.

I have self-awareness. I have empathy. It’s probably because I know what childhood trauma, depression, and addiction can do–and how you are NOT defined by these life obstacles. You grow, you change, you heal. In the process, you do and say some fucked up shit. It’s OK, we all do. It’s called life, and life is a process.

Also, this guy is what I would call “normal,” in terms of the way I operate, and how I normalize things. You know, one email suffices to say, we’re both sorry, can we move on? That is normal to me. Constantly playing games with people, dodging them in anger, resentment, and bitterness–this is ill. This is, in fact, how my brother’s girlfriend, and by default, my brother, operates. This is her normal.

Sigh. When it comes to amends and people like her, I have written off most of them to be honest. I mean, if you’ve been a friend for over a decade, if I’ve helped you every step of the way through your own debilitating depression, if I’ve gone to your father’s funeral–and you choose to never speak to me again because…I’m guessing my drinking was a problem, but you never told me exactly why, or what I did that was apparently the last straw for you? OK. I can let you go. It takes two people to be in a relationship, and to reconcile, and to choose–together–to move forward.

BUT, if you’re pulling that same nonsense AND you’re my brother’s girlfriend? Ugh. I kind of can’t write you off. In fact, I’ll be seeing this woman at my other brother’s wedding in May, which is why I finally broke down and made the phone call apology. No heroine here, just desperate to make amends so that the level of awkward won’t be debilitating when we finally do meet face-to-face! Now, I had already engaged her via a letter and numerous calls and emails to my brother, but that’s beside the point, according to them.

Why do I have to keep revisiting this? It’s like, there are a handful of things that still linger, mistakes made while drunk that continue to haunt me. Things that I just have to get through sober so that I won’t drink before I do. Fears and resentments to conquer before I can FINALLY…rest easy into my “new life.”

One of them is working a full-time job again. And, I made a huge step in that direction this week by starting a part-time one! Lo and behold, I can talk to people and socialize and pretend to be happy at work. LOL. Anyway: check.

Another is working AND continuing to maintain my freelance writing business. While the end result remains to be seen, I got a good feeling for it this week. While I’ll probably have to use my time a little bit differently, this week was a good test run to prove to myself that all will not be lost–I can keep up the mindset of pitching science stories AND work for someone else. (It also goes a long way toward providing some relief; I mean, while I’m subsisting, financially, it really is touch-and-go. Every month, I have NO IDEA if I’m going to earn my keep, and where that money is going to come from. Having a job will, um, ease that mental stress a lot.)

And, I’d say, the biggest thing that “makes me want to drink again” is having my brother’s girlfriend still hating on me, and lying in wait. I mean, I literally have no idea how they took the voicemail message I left on Sunday night. (I wonder if they’re listening to the message over and over again, making fun of it; or maybe, she deleted it and my brother never found out I left it? I should call him this weekend to make sure–I wouldn’t put it past her, I really wouldn’t. This is someone who lives on grudges and feeds off hate and anger and resentment. I hate having her in my life, in my head, but for now, it’s like, I have no choice.) Did it make things better or worse? And, even though it made me feel a bit relieved–I said some nasty-ass shit when I was blacked out, but this is going on TWO-PLUS YEARS ago now–it also made me feel angry again. Why do I have to keep apologizing? The thing is, I know she’s messing around, and I’m not. Her ego’s been bruised, but her “normal” is anything but. Anyone with even an ounce of empathy would have shown it by now; she has none.

All that being said, I still have to play this out, and wait until the wedding in May to see how she chooses to act toward me. She could do a number of things, none of which would surprise me: she could “play nice;” she could ignore me; she could mumble mean things under her breath the whole time (my guess this is what she’ll do); she could get shitfaced herself at the ceremony dinner and verbally and/or physically assault me. I honestly have no idea. And, the fact that my voicemail was not acknowledged doesn’t offend me, it simply leaves me hanging. Again. I have felt left hanging, worrying about this for over TWO freaking years. I just can’t wait for it to be over.

So, anger and resentment. I’m not sure why, exactly, I fear I won’t be safe from drinking again until these matters are finally dealt with, but I do. But, it sure does make me appreciate the people who have come back, arms open, hearts already having forgotten the mistakes–the bad–in favor of the aces–the good. Life is too short to remember the bad, and I’m too imperfect to hold grudges.

Yet…once this wedding arrives and I finally do see my brother and his girlfriend again, I honestly think my choice will be one of total separation. How a family member could play such games, for so long, in the face of honest attempts at reconciliation? I just don’t see how that person would or could be a welcome, healthy part of my life now.

Oh, and btw, fuck you, Wolfie! (I’m about 5.5 weeks away from a whole year sober!)

Planning “me” time

26 Jan

1:08 pm

So, today, and yesterday, I have “me” time. Why? Because I planned out all my “non-me” time for this week. Sure, it’ll be a busy week, and sure, I won’t have anymore “me” time until next weekend; but like planning when and how I’m going to work, I’ve found that it is simply essential for me to both plan my off-hours and then take them. Like, I don’t have to ruin today with tomorrow, you know?

Since it’s all planned out, I can enjoy my time off, like really enjoy it. For me, these days, that usually involves a lot of walking, zoning, looking at the trees and water, and being with my dogs. Lately, I’ve been doing yoga classes, willingly, which is a nice step forward. Tiptoe’ing back into hobbies, like strumming my guitar, and listening to music. (And, again, I have to limit it, seeing how I’ve noticed my tendency to need to listen to ALL music, and know EVERYTHING about the historical and social relevance of new artists, and then, the sheer NUMBER of new sounds just makes my brain explode in a good way, but then, the fact that there is SO MUCH to catch up on makes it implode in a bad way–Jesus, someone get me out of my head!)

As I’ve said a gazillion times on this blog, a huge problem I used to have (still have) is taking time off. I mean, Turning It Off. Before, I was unable to turn it off–to stop working, to stop doing, to stop thinking about working or doing–so I drank. I drank to turn it off, I drank to be able to turn it off. You know? I mean, I drank because I had this anxiety around achievement and accomplishment. When I was faced with “down time,” either I didn’t want to be creative and work and do, or, I was afraid of trying and failing. Ack. So, I drank to avoid, but I also drank because I didn’t know how to just sit, without feeling all panicky and paranoid.

Now? Aside from sort of re-training myself to embrace down time, to accept balance into my life; I’ve also realized that I have to plan for it. Belle has a genius thing down, which is a day trip. Me? I just take time to actually plan my off-hours now, which means I plan my on-hours better (even more than I used to, I suppose). And, lately, with my mood improving and my energy coming back, I’ve been seeing improvements in balance–I CAN take time off, on the weekends or during the day, and then come back to work, recharged. Like, clearing out my brain, making way for more information, more concentration. I need this, especially in the kind of work I do.

Yesterday, I did some stuff I never do, and while I was like, Oh, this isn’t going to help, I’m going to feel more stressed when I do have to get back to work, I’m wasting time–I did it anyway. And I feel so much better today! Took a couple hours to sweep and mop the place; listened to music (old and new) for like, 6 or 7 hours; did some yoga; went for a 3-mile run (my runs need a lot of pain management); and then, I don’t know, just hung out with my pets and the night sky. See, before, when I was drinking, I COULD do the hanging-out-with-the-night-sky thing, but I never appreciated it. And I had to drink to keep the panicky feelings away. I don’t know, I just could not spend time without worrying about what I was spending it on, without wanting to run away, screaming in agony. Turns out, I wasn’t spending time, wine was spending me.

Anyway, this is a long-winded way of saying, time off is essential. And, even though I thought taking time off with drinking was worth it, it totally defeated the purpose. Now, my time off recharges and gives me balance…which helps me deal with my time on, and with the energy required to stay sober.

Happy Sunday. 300-somesuch days for me. I’m heading into a year in March, so that’s where my radar is focused now. I can’t believe it, and moreover, I can’t believe I’m LOOKING FORWARD to it! I have plans, and shit to do now. There are moments (stretches of hours?) when I want to drink for break, for reprieve, for job well done. But, I check myself (again) and remember that NO, this is just a reaction, a well-worn pattern. I don’t need to drink, I say, and then, actually, do I really want to? Won’t drinking as “break” lead to me not being able to work for the next few days due to being incapacitated by a hangover? I want to get my work done more than I want (or “need”) to drink right now. And, then, it all makes sense again; the craving subsides; and I simply (automatically) do my “go to’s”–talk to my boyfriend, turn on the TV, scrounge around the kitchen, take a shower, stretch, or go to bed.

And…tomorrow arrives. One more sober moon, one more sober sun. YES.

Plugging along, but not thinking about drinking

24 Jan

2:30 pm

And, that’s pretty much it. At this point, compared to how it used to be, I rarely think that drinking would make it better. Even rarer, that I actually want a glass of wine, in the visceral sense of craving the buzz, the numbing, or the euphoria. Somehow, I don’t want that anymore; I don’t feel like I lack it enough to want to seek an outside source. My sobriety has turned into simply, well, living. And, for a while, last summer, I stopped believing I would actually “heal.” It’s unreal how things have changed since last September, which was about oh, 6 months into my second stint (I went for almost 6 months before that).

For me, not drinking has become more of a practical choice–sure, I could talk about being sober for all the other reasons that we do, but at the end of the day, my day-to-day life is practically a gazillion times better. Why?

I have no hangovers.
I can work, mainly because my reward/motivation circuitry (up there, in my brain) is healing or, at the very least, has “bounced back.”
I have no hangovers. (Did I mention that?)
I can work.
I have no hangovers. (Right, no fucking hangovers!)
I can work. (Yes, I said that.)
I can work out.
I can get up early.
I might get up early and feel tired, scared of the day (often), overwhelmed, or sad, but at least…I’m not hung over!
I don’t obsess over fucking wine, and that means: I can go to dinners, to parties, and not want to drink, not be worried about wanting to drink, not be vexed by the fact that I “can’t drink” and others “get to”–it just doesn’t mean that much to me anymore. Why?
I can more and more clearly see just how much–how very, very much–I was compromising my physical health and psychological stability by drinking the way I did. I mean, my fucking GOD, the stress I put my body under just going through one drinking episode, let alone 265 out of 365 days every year. No wonder I need–and am finally beginning to accept the “new” (old) me–nine hours of sleep a night, I have all that catching up to do!
I never say or do anything that I regret, that requires apologies, that jeopardizes my relationships. I never have to say I’m sorry for anything much anymore, because my steps are calculated and my emotions, guarded. I like this; this is how I want to be right now, how I need to be.

I can focus now, and that, my friends, is the best thing about this practical side of quitting drinking. And, it’s mainly because I have somehow come to accept that drinking is ONE way to solve my problems, but it’s not the ONLY way–I can pick another. Drinking is a way to avoid and escape–I don’t want to do that anymore, no matter how pissy I feel inside and grumpy I might come off to people. I’d just rather be…stronger. I’m better than that now. I don’t choose to “cop out” of social situations; I choose to sit there calmly, staring at you kindly (sort of) as you ramble on about shit that is completely irrelevant to my life simply because you are drunk, or as you soliloquy off into flights-of-fancy tangents that are, again, irrelevant to anyone but you. I WAS YOU, remember? I don’t want to be you anymore. And, I’m so glad that I finally can say that. I mean, that doesn’t necessarily imply that I don’t have cravings, but at the end of the day, drinking adds up to one big minus-1000 for me.

So, I’m just plugging along, but not thinking about drinking (all that much). Thinking instead (what else is new?) about work, about my next pitches, about how I’m going to make two weeks’ income in less than one. And, because I no longer have booze fucking with my sense of reality, I can take a deep breath, laugh out loud a little at my own circular thinking, and say, SHH. Quiet, bitches. This thinking is “drinkin’ thinkin’,” which has nothing to do with the real me. I’ll make it happen.

300 days, and it’s getting better

13 Jan

12:42 pm

Well, here we are! Well, were, since 300 days came and went. And, to be honest, it was a day like every other: some ups, some downs, but mainly just stressed about finding money! I don’t know…it was just there.

When I think about how I spent my day, I really have to take a step back and say, Wow, that’s remarkably better than how you were spending your Sunday’s just a few years ago. Yesterday, I got up at the usual time, 10, which was fine. Early enough to have some morning left. I did some chores, took the dogs for a long walk, spent about 45 minutes chatting with my landlord/neighbor/friend, catching up on her holidays and future plans–a really good way to make myself feel more of a part of “things.” I came home, made some lunch (a spinach salad with some basalmic-oil dressing and some pasta), and then, followed up on yesterday morning’s yoga class by trying to replicate it on my own mat. Afterward, I meditated/dozed off on the mat, until about 2. I spent the afternoon trying to boost my mood to get myself to “do shit,” but I just couldn’t find the energy. My boyfriend came home from work, and we/I spent the evening walking the dogs along the back hills, grocery shopping, making dinner, talking to my mother for about an hour (I really need to call her more so that our conversations can be shorter!), and then, “binging” on our Netflix show du jour (Dexter).

I also made sure my dog got her meds in the morning and evening–she’s on doxycycline for tick fever, and she was prescribed a shit-ton of pills (a whole month’s worth, so four a day!).

Why so much detail? Well, if I was drunk/hung over, my day would NOT have included anything related to self-care or care of others/animals. It would have resembled what is unfortunately familiar to all of you: in bed until 3 pm, feeling sick, confused, and panicky, looking through my texts and email to figure out what I might have done or said last night; finally heaving myself out of bed long enough to make ramen and tea, eat that, and then pathetically slump back into my bed, feeling still drunk. I might have gotten up by 5 or 6 pm, as the light was leaving the sky, to get some air, walking a short few blocks up and down the city streets, alone. I probably would have called my mother, and then it’d be about 8 pm. Since I have no dogs to take care of in this scenario (no plants either), no boyfriend to share anything with, and no story pitching to worry about–because I have no freelance business–I’d probably go out to the corner store, buy a bottle of red, and drink that down while binging on a random assortment of Netflix shows (Intervention, Breaking Bad, or Lost were some of my favorites when I was hung over–sad, in a way, except for Lost, which I never quite remembered because I was drunk). Of course, the red would be making me feel at ease, and mainly, helping me to forget my hangover, another wasted day, and the dreadful feeling that I am missing out on SO much.

It’s the little things…but I can’t tell you how they really do add up to one HUGE thing. Like, the fact that it’s just normal now for me, expected that I wake up before 10, to take care of my dogs, to give my girl her meds on time, every day. The fact that it’s a given that I’ll have the desire to prioritize yoga, meditation, and a spinach salad on my day off–and not wine wine wine wine wine. The fact that I have someone to share my day with–that I’m not afraid of intimacy anymore (I was terrified of it, and everything that came with it, when I was drinking–it’s one reason I drank, to both avoid it and hide from my fear of it). The fact that I’m able to talk to my neighbors, that I have an outlet for feeling alone–that I see that others need me as much as I need them, that this is how it works, building community from the inside out. I don’t have to walk around alone in a cold city; I get to do it with someone else, among trees and sun.

I get to choose all this, and I get to choose to approach it with a positive outlook (that often means just ignoring the negative thoughts, the stress, the anticipation of the worst). And, I am aware of all of this, and of how good all of it is, and of how much better it is with this choice. It doesn’t always feel good–I have doubts and anxiety all the time–but it is better, that’s the truth. I look back and think, I may not have known I was dependent on wine, but I knew (believed) that I didn’t have a choice–especially when it came to the negative self-talk about how much my life sucked/how much more I wanted out of life that I didn’t have, which inevitably led to me drinking my nights away, one by one. And then, entire weekends. And sometimes, entire weeks (toward the end, I spent a few ENTIRE WEEKS drunk around the clock=yikes).

So, yeah. I don’t want to overemphasize the negative, but this post is just to say, it creeps up on you, the GOOD, and the BETTER that everyone (at meetings) bangs on about when it comes to getting sober. Sure, you sober up–there are a lot of realities I am facing now, and most of the time, reality comes with fear (whether that reality is actually anxiety-producing outside of my overreacting mind, I am not sure). But, you also GET. You get a lot. And most of it is in small changes, incremental ones that build upon one another until one day you wake up and you’re like, OK, wow, so I might want that glass of red, but honestly, I really can’t see going back to giving up all this–I can see it now, I have it now–in exchange for the “buzz” of alcohol.

As Dan Savage says, it gets better. Sometimes, getting better doesn’t mean what we want/think it should mean, though. Getting better is more complex than just feeling better–isn’t that what we tried to do when we were drinking, feel better? We never GOT better, though.

And, I guess I’ll fix my counter to 365 days on March…18th?

Fizzling out

11 Jan

7:58 pm

I just wanted to check in and thank everyone, firstly, for all the great comments to last week’s post on PAWS.

And, well, not to write a long post about it, but to say, I’m fizzling. Fizzled. It’s been a long past two weeks, and will be a much longer next few. This freelance writing stuff is the most labor-intensive thing I’ve done, mainly because of two things: 1. the world we live in doesn’t seem to value contextualized written pieces (unless they’re of course, shit like “Fifty Shades of…the Worst Writing in the World”), and 2. I have to juggle so many other balls in the air to keep my income coming in during the down-time/story pitch void (or, shall I say vortex, because often, that’s what it feels like). I spent all day today setting up an exchange between a yoga teacher and myself: I help her run her studio, she lets me take yoga for free. GREAT deal, and I’m pumped. I thought that this could be a paying gig, but it turned out to be better for both of us to just do an exchange. Still, I need to pay my bills, so I guess I’ll be looking at some other stuff in the “random job search” files next week.

I’m good, though. Aside for the sound of some dog barking incessantly from a distant hillside, nothing much is annoying, saddening, or triggering me. I feel relatively “up.” And, I know not to expect the “high high,” or the buzz, or the occasional “escape” into the ether that comes with a glass (bottle or two) of wine, but… Eh. I just feel “eh” a lot these days. I finally got my work mojo back, and it’s getting easy again to socialize and do business with strangers, but, it’s sort of…boring. I thought I’d get a MUCH bigger kick out of Accomplishing My Work Goals (in all caps, because it’s been SO freaking important to me to get to this point, being able to work AND be sober). Like, it became such a big deal to me, and now that I’ve come back and have realized that it’s SO not that big of a deal–everyone works–and that I’ve SO done this before; it feels too easy and not as rewarding as I would have hoped.

I guess I’m still looking for that buzz, whether it comes from an intellectual accomplishment or a glass (bottle or two) of wine. Maybe I’ve simply plateaued; maybe I might be here for a while; maybe I’m tempted to drink when my brain goes quiet because nothing is too bad anymore? I don’t dislike the plateau, and it sure beats the ditch where I was. It’s just…flat. And, I want to scream at myself, Uh, yeah, isn’t it NICE?! I want to yell, Isn’t it fan-fucking-tastic that there are no hills to climb–or cliffs to fall off of?!

Yes, it is nice, I quietly reply to that mean bitch (yes, DDG, you can be one mean bitch, just like your friend, Wolfie-boy). YES, it’s nice to be able to have productive day after day after day, with no unnecessary obstacles–like a pounding hangover or dreadful anxiety about what you might have said or done the night before–in the way. It’s SO nice. It’s SO good. Yet…I feel like I want to shake it up, come back to “myself,” mess up the rug a little.

Then I think, OK, I can mess up the rug a little, sure. But not until AFTER I get this, that, and the other done. And, those things are really important to me, so I can’t break my mental momentum just yet (ever). I can’t think about drinking AND get my shit done anymore. It’s like, I can’t circle back right now, it’s too distracting–and scary. I don’t want to lose time, to lose motivation, to lose the thread of my new life. It might happen if I drink; worse, it might happen even if I give myself the option to drink! I’m still too brain-less, in a way, to be able to live two lives, like I was doing for such a long time–how did I manage? Uh, I didn’t.

And, so it goes. I have come to appreciate the productivity in exchange for not drinking. Mostly, I have come to rely on this sense of focus, this recovered ability to actually make long-term plans and act on them. When you’re drinking, or even thinking about drinking, this seems to be at the least, compromised, and at the most, completely disabled.

Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a long post! See you tomorrow, when I finally reach 300 days! 🙂

Once an Addict, Not Always an Addict

11 Dec

10:38 am

Hey, guys, here’s another Sober Living essay I wrote for The Fix magazine–they just relaunched and are now based in LA (instead of NYC).

If there is ONE thing I’ll take away from my sober journey, it’s: listen to your heart, and let your intuition guide your choices. Everyone is different in their addiction, and everyone is different in their getting sober. Addicition is NOT a one-size-fits-all model.

Now would be a good time to drink…

22 Nov

7:33 pm

Now would be the time to drink, if there is one. I just finished three stories and well, two months’ income.

I’ve already blogged about why “now” would not, actually, be a good time to drink: it’s November 22nd, and I still have to find December’s income. I still have NO idea where that money is coming from yet–could be in the form of an assigned story, could be in the form of a story or two that I have yet to pitch. Ugh. Freelancing. And, then, there’s January, and February, and March’s income. Sometimes, I can’t imagine ever feeling like I deserve to rest, a break, a reward. Do I?

I did it, though. I picked myself up this summer, worked my arse off to grind this business to a start, and actually did it. I know being sober has everything to do with it. This has been months, years in the making. And I’ve worked really hard to get here–not just to have those handful of stories, whatever. I’ve worked hard the way you all know that this revising-your-entire-existence-on-planet-Earth is hard when you get sober.

Sigh. I still want to drink tonight, though. As a reward. As a break. It’s what I always did. It’s what I’ve always done after filing hefty stories. I’ve EARNED this, haven’t I? I’ve been planning it for months, in a way: once I get to “this” point along the way in the freelance thing, then I can drink.

I told my boyfriend I was going to drink a “couple” of glasses of wine tonight, but in my heart, I know I’m lying. For all intents and purposes, I’m not in the mood to drink.

But I still “want” to. So, what do I do? I go and grab my wine glass, fill it to the top (cuz that’s how I roll; 6-ounce “glass,” my ass) with some homemade sorrel tea, and whoa, what a surprise! Sorrel’s got a tinge of an aftertaste, and it feels/tastes very much like wine. I put ginger (along with cloves and cinnamon) in this iced tea, so it sort of burns on the way down, and once there, simmers in my belly. And, by golly, it feels like I’m drinking wine! And, no shit, I “feel” the symptoms of being drunk.

When I got drunk, I’d feel the good feelings–happy, excited, caution-to-the-wind, big ideas–and I’d feel the bad–dizzy, brain coming undone, spaced out, tired, bloated, stomach burning. Sometimes the bad would totally outweigh the good, especially toward the end when the buzz didn’t even show up. Maybe it’s my association of these feelings, similar to the ones I’m getting from the tea, with being drunk that’s making me actually feel drunk?

In any case, it just reminds me of how NOT WORTH IT it is. I just feel down, tired, spaced out, and my stomach is burning. I have that sick, wine aftertaste in the back of my throat, and I’m going to keep taking swallows of that sick, tart wine and make that aftertaste worse. Stomach’ll keep burning, throat will reflexively gag, but I’ll keep downing that wine–every sip taking me further and further outside of my head. Pretty soon, I’ll be tipsy, which may or may not involve feeling buzzed; my head will start to hurt; I’ll start to feel really dizzy; I’ll lose sense of my chain of thoughts; and I’ll feel confused, like my brain is literally coming unglued, as if big chunks of neurons are coming unhinged from one another, cell by cell.

And then, I’ll be like, oh, a bottle is gone?, and I feel nothing but numb. Not better, just numb. And sick. And drunk. And…now $10 is gone, the night is spent, and I have nothing to show for it except…a horrible day tomorrow of being hung over, of not being able to work or do anything I had planned. Ugh. It just adds up to zero.

So, yeah. While I “want” to drink, I don’t. And that confuses me, because I feel both at once. I guess I’ll just refill my wine glass with more sorrel tea and pretend I’m drunk. Or, maybe I’ll go to the bar (my neighbors are leading a pub crawl at the bar up the road) and watch all the drunken people perform their stupid human tricks?

No good can come. No good can come. I KNOW this, but… I feel left out.

You know, I used to hate those cautious people, the ones who were like, “Oh, I better stop, I’ve already had two.” FUCK YOU. I was so impulsive when it came to wine, so impulsive and dangerous in my choices, my behavior. Now, I’m turning (turned) into one of those cautious people I hated! Maybe I always was/am too cautious to allow my inner zen to be disturbed–maybe that’s the real me, and I’m just having to get used to her being around again.

And, now it’s 7:50 and the night is too old for me to start drinking now. Plus, I wasn’t kidding, I think I’m really heading over to the bar where my boyfriend works to make fun of (feel glad it’s not me) the drunkards.

200 days plus 7 weeks = almost 250 days! 50 more until day 300, and then…?

Update at 10:51 pm: so, I went to the bar, saw some people, drank some pineapple and club soda, and ate some Roquefort cheese (ugh, not only cheese, but FRENCH cheese; all I could think was, This would go so much better with some French wine). And, well, I still want to drink. I still want that “break.” I still feel left out, and friend-less, in a way. I miss drinking to socialize, I really do. Oh, well.

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