No one else has to care about my sobriety

9 Nov

11:14 am

That’s pretty much the lesson I learned on my trip. And, I’m trying to basically ignore the nagging feeling that most if not all of my old friends–people who saw me at my worst, who drank with me and around me–acted as if either my problem wasn’t one/wasn’t that bad, or that even if it was, I didn’t deserve praise.

I don’t know. I don’t get it.

I am back, and having a great Sunday–I finally get to enjoy some down-time. Ahh…sweet breezes, warm weather, the sounds and scents all around. It feels wonderful to realize just how different my values and priorities are now. And, I have to say, it’s what helped me move forward–being forced to live outside my comfort zone, on multiple levels, and try something NEW–and the lack thereof that’s allowed some of my friends to remain stuck.

But, I digress. I don’t want to dwell too hardcore on the whole “my friends don’t seem to give a shit about my sobriety” thing. Which may or may not be a figment of my imagination. First of all, I haven’t been in great touch with any of them since swearing off the wine, and frankly, I don’t think they knew all that much about this whole journey because I didn’t divulge that much (though, to several I did, so…).

I just had this niggling feeling that they were either shocked that I was still sober/am sober at all. I just didn’t get it. They know me, and know my past, and each and every one of them knows specifically that I am, indeed, sober, and not just “not drinking.” None of them really congratulated me, which is OK, I’m used to that. They don’t need to. However, on two occasions, I had to basically interject about my sobriety because no one was asking anything. It’s a huge part of my life, the fulcrum on which everything else rests these days. So, I thought I needed to at least address it–in the context of how it’s made my life much, MUCH better. To one friend, I said, “Everything I have right now is because I am sober.” She was stunned, but got it. Melodramatic? I don’t think so.

I went out to a piano bar with one group of friends, and when the waiter came around, I ordered a San Pellegrino with lime (so delicious). My friends literally went quiet, staring at me in disbelief, as if to say, Well, I didn’t think you were SOBER sober. At a restaurant with another friend, we got to talking about not drinking because she was pregnant, and she goes, “So, you don’t drink AT ALL?”

It’s like, how many times do I have to tell you that I’m sober? And, these are close friends, people who know how bad things got. It’s why I felt like they were purposefully trying to bring me back to the ground…because of envy, because of fear, who knows.

After my trip, I honestly don’t know how much more I can interact with these three friends. It’s sad, in a way, because if they only knew the work and thought that I’ve put into my sobriety, maybe the two who seem stuck could learn from my experience! I felt like they were saying, I “hate” (not hate, but you know) you because you’re well and I’m not. It’s the exact same thing I get from my brother and his girlfriend. I refuse to forgive you: not only did you “get away” with being a drunk, but you get to be sober and happy and productive, too. It’s not fair.

Sometimes, it’s confusing to go “home again,” in terms of old friendships. I think I’ve come into my own to where, I don’t attract dysfunctional ones anymore? I must say, however, that my circle of friends where I live now is awesome: I can’t even count the number of times they’ve gone out of their way to welcome me in spite of the fact that I wasn’t drinking at parties; to offer me nonalcoholic beverages; to respect my choice to not imbibe and make me feel respected and proud, even.

I did wonder if my one friend was turned off by my being sober because she, as a doctor of psychology, is all about harm reduction. I have some new thoughts on harm reduction, and I’ll get to that later. For me, and I think for most of us who have crossed that line, ONE sip is too much. ONE sip activates Wolfie. And what we’re trying to accomplish in the end, is shut Wolfie up, not stop drinking per se.

Anyhoo, la la la. I am great, doing well, rocking the stories and hopefully, starting work as a part-time barista this week. All in all, though, I don’t need the barista work (at least for this month’s income)–but it could be fun. I got to think a lot about my three years in exile here–and how I could have done it differently (for another blog post). My trip back to the city allowed me to both connect with my old self AND let her go. And, though it was exhausting, it’s allowed me to go even further, to expand and grow even more. Oh, and that slip, or whatever it was? Totally allowed me to fully conceptualize never drinking again–drinking just doesn’t do anything but ruin the next day, it’s not how I roll anymore, and the benefits of sobriety are so mind-blowing in terms of moving forward in my life that…there is no place for wine, and that is OK. I can keep on being free. Sobriety is liberation from the old way you did shit; and it allows you a blank slate of mind, to finally try doing shit a NEW WAY.

Sobriety is banishing the “Wolfie thinking” and doing shit a NEW, DIFFERENT WAY. Because you’re free, you really are. And because you can–you are able.

Lots to do today, so I’ll sign off. More soon!

Too busy to think about drinking or being sober

6 Nov

9:43 am

Hi! I just wanted to check in and say, Yes, I’m still here, and Yes, I’ve been busy trying to earn a living. It doesn’t have to be this hard, and I am hoping to remedy that in the the next six months–I’ve realized that job change doesn’t happen overnight/in a few months, so I’m going to give it a lot longer; meantime, continue to grind out the freelance life.

I think about being sober these days, only in the context of it being my anchor to sanity–I’d be one big ball of uncontrollable worry about finances if I let myself lag on my to-do lists by procrastinating with wine. I rarely think about drinking–it wouldn’t be nice, and it wouldn’t solve anything. I was down last night, but I shed a few tears, forced myself to “get happy,” and made a pie. It totally took me out of the moment, which I knew if I just felt it, would pass. There is literally no place in my life right now for alcohol.

Well, I gotta get to work, but I promise to check in again very soon and start blogging more. Miss you all!

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!

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