Recovery is not forever

15 Sep

11:35 am

Life keeps happening–who knew?

I just wanted to check in and say, hey, I’m still here, and still sober. I guess I have just been busy–stories to write, interviews (of me, for jobs) to do–it all just leaves me with little time to wax poetic or non-nostalgic about my drinking, or lack thereof.

I’m just glad that my brain is somewhat back in balance–yes, I’m sober, in more ways than one; much more sober than I used to be. However, I can see the negative affect more clearly–we ALL HAVE IT, negative thoughts and feelings–and I can literally choose to embrace it, ignore it, or let it go completely. Last year, when I was around a year sober, it all seemed so confusing–and worse, like valuable “recovery material.” Now, it just gets in my way. (I know there are still many things to blog about–more than ever, actually. I just seem to be having a hard time committing to spending what little free time I do have to thinking about (not) drinking! More to come, I’m sure.)

Make no mistake: Sobriety is worth it. But, recovery does not have to be forever.

Sober and feeling…”life”ly

1 Sep

8:15 pm

I could write a book here, but I won’t. Lately, I haven’t had much patience for media, in general; social media, in particular. That’s mainly because I do it all day long as a journalist–and when I’m not doing it, I’m thinking about how rejuvenating it would be to not have to check email and Facebook and my phone (and the news) ever again. BUT…as a writer, it’s a must, so I’ve learned to do it in moderation and put it away when it starts to make me want to hyperventilate. Too Much Information–time to Turn It Off.

So, I’ve been minimally blogging. Not that stuff hasn’t been going down: job interviews (’nuff said), and my interviews of people for stories that I’ve been working on, and in general, stressing about my income. What else is news? ;)

There has also been lots of dog walks, and runs, and beach swims, and snorkels…and, sort of continuing work on changing my diet (I had help in revising my tastes when I was on my volun-tour vacation, but I digress). I like my new diet, and frankly, I like having lost almost 15 pounds of “sugar” weight. The hard part of keeping it off in the face of mood swings and stress is there, and always will be; but I learned one thing: get out of the sugar-as-treat mentality as soon as you can after getting sober.

I think I’ve managed to get out of my depression after six long weeks of it. Bizarre. I’ve worked and lived as usual, but…it’s been hard. Maybe it wasn’t exactly depression, maybe it was just post-vacation blues. Or, maybe it was realizing that now, I really have to Work. Like, move-and-find-a-real-job work. It may also be related to coming back to a place that simply does not serve some big parts of myself. Or, it could be linked to the chronic pain I still have from the mosquito-borne illness I got while abroad–I read some studies matching this chronic pain to depression. It has been a very weird up-and-down ride since getting home (and I’m used to depression). I’m hoping once I’m working full-time again, and settled into a new “thing”–getting past the hump of just pulling the trigger on one possibility–things will look up.

I’ve wanted to drink a LOT these past few weeks–more than ever, or at least more than I’ve wanted to drink in the past year. I just feel like I have no reward–especially after parsing so much information on a daily basis. I need a break. A real treat, you know? But, I don’t drink. I can’t. I can’t be sure that I won’t immediately again start associating wine with reward, or wine with fixing my state of mind; and I know how simply exhausting this is. So, status quo, just don’t drink, it’s all good.

On that note, apparently my Labor Day weekend is over–I have some reporting and writing to do now!

Hope everyone is plugging away–it is worth it, it so very much is. Sometimes, I can’t believe how far I’ve come. And how much less I think, in general, about things that don’t matter. More on that in another post!

You stop complaining

21 Aug

9:35 am

Last night, I went out. That in and of itself is a big deal. LOL. (Not really, I’m just kidding: I do go out, but it’s actually quite rare that I take time off from work at night–I just work through–to prioritize what I used to, which is socializing for “no good reason” other than it’s well, good for me.)

So, anyway, I was there, talking to drunk people–some more drunk than others–and one or two or three people really struck me as complainers. And I totally get it. I mean, on a deeper level, and maybe one that they don’t get…YET. Because they have not put in the “sober work.” I don’t mean to sound high-horse-y, but it strikes me as true that when you get sober, you stop finding excuses and you stop complaining. There are no problems, only solutions (Bob Marley, in all his “simplistic” lyricism, knew what was up.)

The fact is, complaining is pointless and takes energy. I mean, I used to complain a lot when I got drunk. I used to blow things out of proportion, care about shit that was no business of mine, and put effort into everything BUT what I should be putting effort into: me, and solving my so-called problems.

Last night, someone was drunkenly bitching about some random stranger having a 9-month-old out to dinner at 9 pm. I get it, it’s lame, but…what are you going to do? I was like, Why on EARTH would you care, let alone get riled up, about something you cannot change? Then I remembered, I used to do that all the time when I was drinking–and, when I wasn’t drinking, in the back of my mind.

It just becomes pointless–useless–to complain. IF there is an actual problem, why not solve it? IF you’re insulted by the situation, change it. Or, change your attitude toward it. The goal for me, I guess, has become to make things as simple as possible, at all times. To not care about things that I cannot change. To change what I can, and leave the rest. And, to see someone struggling with problems that are not his–and doing so in an emotional, confusing way, which is what happens when you get drunk–it struck me as tiring. Exhausting. A waste of time!

I cannot tell you how glad I am to be sober right now–not just not drinking, that is an afterthought. I cannot even really express how being sober has forced me to change this problem-seeking mindset/lifestyle I was living–into a solution-seeking one. There are so many big deals (the brother’s crazy girlfriend, ahem) and little things that went into it, but a little over two years later, I am glad to say, I don’t give a shit about what’s not mine (well, I try). And this is grand. Because this allows me to see clearly what I can and should and need to care about, and how I can actually change it. Or not. Either way, it doesn’t carry over into my Hemlock Grove-watching time, or my writing time, or my thinking time, or my pie-making time.

Obviously, there are people who have a complaining problem with our without booze, and there are MANY well-adjusted, empathetic folks out there who do not! I was just noticing the former group at last night’s shenanigans.

Well, hope all are well. Sobriety is HARD work, no external solutions allowed! But, it is so worth it when you can finally sit back and say, Wow, this happened. I think I’ll keep being sober.

Social media–helpful or harmful?

16 Aug

8:46 am

Ahh, social media. Suffice to say, I think we all have love-hate relationships with it.

Lately, I have been quiet: head down, working, job searching, and really, simply trying to enjoy life outside of the computer screen once I actually manage to turn it off. The writing is on the wall (literally, since I’m a writer) that, while I like what I do–and it’s brought me a lot of pride and sense of accomplishment to have made my living for two years as a freelancer–I don’t earn enough money! I mean, I won’t bore you with the deets again, but I simply need to earn more. And, we’re not talking a little bit more; we’re talking, graduate student loans and supplemental income for my mom and buying a vineyard in Greece before I turn 50 more! I have always been driven, and responsible when it comes to earning my keep–I never received help from my parents. However, these past two years have put me nearly in the red (I am past red, let’s face it).

All that aside, I am doing well. Feeling strong. Recovering from my trip (where I acquired a mosquito-borne illness that among other things, I think, has been contributing to me feeling like the bug and not the windshield many days this month). In a weaker moment, I stood in front of the shelves of wine bottles at the grocery store for about 15 minutes one night, I was feeling that desperate to “fix” my depression.

BUT, my practically sole sane thought was the loudest of the bunch: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Like, what happens after that first bottle, practically speaking? Another bottle? Another $10? Another one? Again, another $10? It really is amazing to find myself thinking rationally about this, to be able to be MINDFUL enough to think past the craving and say, Self, this is not a solution; this IS THE PROBLEM.

I started blogging about getting sober over two years ago. I am on Facebook and will remain on Facebook for professional reasons. I have been able to dodge Twitter, mainly, but not at a cost to my professional life–it’s a cost I’m willing to pay, in exchange for my sanity. I don’t do Instagram, but I think it’d be more difficult to resist if I had a data plan on my phone (which I don’t, because I don’t earn enough money as a freelance writer, which I MIGHT, actually, if I was on Twitter–you see where this rabbit hole is going).

I’m not a stranger to social media, and all the benefits it offers. However, lately, social media has had me perplexed. Vexed. It feels inauthentic, and what’s more, empty. I think that participating in an echo chamber like Twitter, or Facebook, or yes, even these blogs–while amazingly helpful–can be part of the problem. This “thinking problem” that seems to be part of the reason we self-soothe with alcohol, or other substances. We are already so much in our heads–afflicted by ruminative, navel-gazing tendencies–is social media making this better, or worse? Even if it’s GOOD navel-gazing, is it ever really, for “people like us?” For people who need to Turn It Off, more or less? I understand there is a fine line between denial and mindfulness, and I’m having a hard time seeing it these days.

I guess this is why I’ve stayed off this blog for almost two weeks now? I just feel like…forever hashing it out–well, it’s just not working for me the way it used to. Maybe I need to collect myself and move onto a new project? We’ll see…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: after the initial contact–getting sober, seeing your faults, comparing and contrasting everything you do to drinking and then, to abstinence–it’s OK to simply let it go. It really is OK to let it go.

On that note, I’m going to sign off and do just that. :)

Mom, I’m bored!

2 Aug

8:33 am

Yes, it is 8:30 in the morning, and I’ve already been up for an hour.

Since I’ve gotten home, I’ve felt, I guess, somewhat manic–and for the most part, I’ve totally welcomed it! I don’t need a lot of sleep, but, I’m also more agitated than usual. I credit my volunteer trip as having “re-wired” me, but, is that all that’s going on?

As you can imagine, the mania/extra energy dissipates and by the afternoon, the agitation, brain fog, and general feeling of listlessness and/or hopelessness sets in. I think I just feel let down by the afternoon and evening–what the fuck have I done with my day?, I wonder, in spite of everything I’ve checked off my to-do list. Even though I have been “busting a move” on a lot of projects and items…I still feel, generally speaking, depressed in the afternoons. I think I always have, as long as I can remember being self-conscious enough to actually examine my life. The day is over, I mourn. And, while I know I am often too hard on myself, maybe I could be doing so much more?

Where art thou, dopamine?

I wonder about this “boredom” thing. WHAT IS IT? It’s not that I am bored, like, I-have-nothing-to-do-bored. Sometimes it’s that I have too many options, but they all take work. Usually, it’s a visceral agitation–my gut feels clenched and my head feels foggy. Like, EVERYTHING feels irritating, and even though I know I have to push through my cerebral work, it’s hard. So, I just get ‘er done. Go through the motions. Focus through the pain. It sometimes feels like my brain is broken, this brain fog stuff.

I want to fix it with wine. I have been REALLY wanting to drink since I got back, and I think it’s a combination of my “natural high” from the trip wearing off, and well, my “brain fog” days. Maybe I just have too much to do, too much catching up, and I feel like I want it all done, NOW (you know, without having to actually do it). Maybe I am bored, as in, what I’m doing has become somewhat…staid? I often want to say, Fuck it, and Good enough, to my writing; but, I just can’t do that. I can’t let it be bad. I have more stories and assignments than ever, and, even though my writing would not win any awards, I’m still plugging away. And that’s all I ask for! It’s just that sometimes, I really do have to go through the motions to get stuff written (reporting is fine, it’s the organizing and writing that hurts).

I wonder about boredom. Fear of working. Agitation. If your goal is simply to “get ‘er done,” are you really in the right profession? Some days I have no spark. I tried to quit Diet Coke, but honestly, I simply could not work without it yesterday. I had a horribly annoying morning at the “free clinic,” and then, I came home to have to push out a piece. It was like giving birth. I did it, of course I did it. But, after crashing out on the bed for about an hour, and then wandering around the apartment, feeling agitated and simply UNWILLING to make my brain work; I broke my measly ONE-DAY STREAK of no Diet Coke and downed like, two glasses. It helped. I “got into it” and finished my piece. Thank GOD, is all I could think.

I used caffeine a LOT in my 20s and early 30s, and this reminds me that I used it to actually be able to get hyped up enough to perform at what was then, something new to me: an office job, typically involving some sort of marketing communications-oriented stuff. I was a biology major, hello? I wasn’t used to talking to people during the day.

I used to use wine to fix this “boredom.” I know I can’t anymore. Mainly, it just doesn’t work. I mean, I have tried it while in this state of mind, and it actually makes my head feel worse. Still, the “but it’ll make you feel high, better, actually happy” rings so loudly that I can barely ignore it.

It’s interesting that only now am I seeing the simple fact that I used wine primarily as an antidepressant. Does that make me less of an “alcoholic?” No, probably not. But, it was rare that I truly sought out wine when I was feeling good. What is the point of drinking if you already feel good? I didn’t drink to get drunk; I drank to feel better. It just so happened that I also didn’t know how to make myself feel better on my own, or even more, PREVENT this slide into my depressed/agitated state.

I am learning, though. Simple things like, unless I need it to activate my brain to finish a story, caffeine is not good for me. I crash, and I crash hard. I have been getting up early, and that helps: I hate spending the hours of 10 – 12 checking email and Facebook; if that shit isn’t done by the start of my workday, which hopefully is before 9 these days, then I feel behind. And, that makes me feel scared. And, that makes me want to procrastinate, or avoid, feeling even worse.

I’m all over the place these days, but I can’t worry about that. The important thing right now is that I am getting my work done. Sorry, depression, but I’m going to have to give you a time-out. You sit over there for a while and Mommy will get her work done, mmkay?

The thing about self-employment (in the creative arts?) is that you can’t just show up. Showing up is meaningless. You have to produce. It doesn’t matter if it takes you two hours or ten, you have to deliver. And some days, it doesn’t come. And that is freaky. Scary. And those days, you worry about your income–bills, food, future bills and future food. You worry about your capability–am I a fraud? You feel the knot in your belly and you think, Fuck, just do it. So, you do, and you go through the motions, and you get ‘er done.

Through it all, I keep thinking, where/what is my reward? Sure, I earn money. That’s a big one. Sure, I move forward in my “career,” so that’s good, too. Lately, though, I want more. I want a “real” reward. I want to feel something else. I want a vacation from this sobriety bullshit! I get SO tired of feeling sober, you know?

I run through the tricks and offer myself alternatives. Take a run; if you don’t feel better, you can get that bottle; but if you do, then promise yourself you won’t (I always feel better). You know you’ll feel ten times worse tomorrow with God-knows-what-kind-of-hangover than you do now, so just push through. Embrace the pain and disappointment–what’s next? What about a trip? What about another coffee? (Actually, I’ve been trying to get away from any food-related rewards, but I’ll save that for another post.)

Sometimes I think I need to mess up my life. Like, I don’t ever let go anymore. I don’t go out, mainly because it’s not fun. It’s not fun to go out and be the sober narc; it’s not bad, but it’s not something I would choose to do over spending time alone, getting my shit done. And that’s the thing: who am I now? I used to be so much fun. I used to be a hot mess. I used to be curious, at the very least, to just have a random night out, exploring bars and just wasting time with my friends. I don’t have any friends, to be frank, let alone a group that I can let my hair down with and simply waste time. You know how much I learned by wasting time and being silly with my friends?

And honestly, I’ve been thinking this: is “the unexamined life” really not worth living? Or, is it the messy life that adds texture, not the one that has been examined to the point of sterility? That is how (my) life feels sometimes: overexamined and sterile. I feel like I need to make a mess!

On that note, I think I am going to stop. Sorry if this is a rambling whine-fest (wine-fest?). Happy Saturday to all!

(Btw, July 31st would have been 500 days, had I not drunk that beer six weeks ago–and wow, that was six weeks ago? I really have not even seriously considered drinking again since then, so that’s pretty great. And, my, how fast time passes!)

Recuperating

27 Jul

2:57 pm

I just wanted to say I’m here, recuperating, putting most–if not all–of my energy reserves into maintaining my momentum.

I am not going to write a long post today because I’m still sort of…spinning. Trying to regain my energy so that I can process what’s happened, deal with my freelance life, and try not to let my “post-trip letdown” turn into a meltdown, i.e., lose that forward momentum I was looking for and seemed to have found. I felt ignited, and energized. I also pushed myself really hard, and lost almost 15 pounds in less than a month–every “high” has its low, right? I have to be patient. I swear, I’ve started like, 10 posts this past week and didn’t finish one because I felt overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings but also, too ambivalent to express them.

I’m tired, grumpy, and don’t really feel like dwelling on sobriety. I am sober, it’s just what I do. You get to the point where yes, everything is probably about being sober, but no, you absolutely don’t have to examine it or even care. That’s how I feel today. I’m glad I didn’t drink wine last night–I really wanted to, my mood has been low since I came home, and scattered–mainly because I am not hung over today, and being hung over today would suck. Being hung over sucks, so not drinking makes sense. That’s about as difficult as it has to get, you know?

Off to enjoy my day, do some reading, and hopefully, a hike and/or swim, send some resumes (yup, we’re doing that again!), and I don’t know, look at the stars and not think about not drinking! ;)

I’m back…I think

20 Jul

12:05 pm

Hi!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks everyone for checking in, and onward we go!

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

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