Understanding triggers

12 Oct

10:34 pm

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

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

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

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

Oy. Hangovers still suck. Suckage. Blargh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old news

5 Oct

9:42 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s old news.

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

Good days are the only days

21 Sep

12:54 pm

Every day’s a good day when you’re not hung over.

This morning, I was up at 8. I went for a run, walked the dogs, made a pot of coffee, and then, video-chatted with an apartment in the big city–where I’ll be headed for a month to enjoy, earn, and hopefully, plan for a future with *more* enjoyment and *more* earnings than I have now.

NONE of this would be happening if I was still drinking.

I look at drinking as a bad habit now. I don’t have time for it, literally. I would like to have a glass of wine, but…I’m not even sure I won’t be hung over after ONE glass. So, I choose to not go there. That’s where it’s at for me. I don’t yearn for the days when doing everything I did this morning was NOT EVEN ON MY RADAR. I don’t long for feeling like shit, being treated even worse, and wallowing in anxiety and depression caused by alcohol, imbalance, and lack of perspective and priorities. I don’t. At all. I saw a trashed Heineken bottle in the grass as I passed with the dogs and was like, Oh. I have come to see drinking as something that I could do, but don’t. I don’t. I choose not to.

It’s great to be in this place, where it definitely feels as simple as a choice to NOT be drunk, to NOT waste the night, to NOT feel utterly ill the next day, to NOT be enslaved to this idea that altering my mind is going to make me feel better, calmer, happier, or zoned out. Yes, I want to feel calmer, and happier, and sometimes I want to zone and forget about the unresolved issues (my brother is still in that category, and it grates); but, I know that there are solutions to these problems that are not booze, and that actually work to solve them.

It’s clear now: drinking is not a solution. Drinking is the problem. For many more of us, drinking is a manifestation of deeper, unmet needs–problems, or just issues that need to be resolved.

This is why I keep staying sober. I would not be here–and would not be able to plan ahead and make long-term goals happen–if I was still using up the majority of my free head space thinking about drinking.

More later, friends. Just checking in. I’m off to a pool party; I made a lemon meringue pie, but I dropped the store-bought crust so had to improvise with a quickie made from scratch. We’ll see… :)

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. :)

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