That “hole in the middle of my stomach” feeling

23 Apr

2:06 pm

Hey, guys.  It’s been so long, and in a nutshell, I’ve been working.  Trying to earn a living.  I have been both freelancing and working part-time as a barista, and I hosted a friend and then my mom two weeks back to back this month.  It’s been tiring.  Today was a shitty day at work, and I can’t help but blame myself (of course):  I’m too quiet, I’m too thoughtful, I don’t smile enough, I work too slow, I make stupid mistakes.  Le sigh.  I’m usually able to bounce back emotionally–as in, I don’t let the thoughts make feelings make ruminations and a bad day–but for some reason, I just feel tired of it all today.

Grief.  My mom is getting older–actually, she’s old.  What happened to her 50s and 60s, I ask?  I feel like I missed the transition, and only now do I see that I can’t go back.  I can’t get her younger self back, and I can’t get my younger self back, and I can’t get all that time back that I spent pushing her away.  I think a lot of people must feel this way, but I didn’t know that it would be a literal feeling, one resembling grief, I suppose.  That irrational sadness that leaves you feeling empty, like you just want to curl up with your dog and weep.

Anyway, my mom will be 69 this year. She has developed what seems to be some profound anxiety and insomnia, and she has some physical ailments that just keep filling in the lines as the years go on.  While all this is troubling in that I can’t quite seem to relate to her, what is most troubling is that I have a continued lack of ability to communicate with her about my drinking past.  I sort of try, but mainly I just feel awkward telling her the gory details (and, with her anxiety in mind, I shy away from giving her anything else to worry about or ruminate on–that’s the way I see it, I’m sure she has a different perception). Of course, she witnessed it. However, of every family member, there was only one (my brother) who confronted me.  The rest were fine to talk about me behind my back for years–I see them do the same thing with other family members, and I used to (and still do) participate in these conversations.  I feel resentment about that, though. Coupled with this inability to open up about the bad stuff and the struggle to this better place–it’s awkward.

What’s also news to me:  THEIR view of me, as the drunk, as the person who was trashing her body, as someone who couldn’t necessarily be relied upon, as the one making poor choices–this view is not going to go away JUST BECAUSE I AM NOW (three years!) SOBER.  And, for some reason, I guess I thought it would.  I thought it would sort of disappear, like my drinking habit.  Granted, there has been no, “Hey, look at me, I’m sober now!” on my part.  There also hasn’t been, “Hey, I’m sorry for all that shit that you might have been bothered by or that might have pissed you off or alienated you, but that you never said to my face” either.  From an outsider’s perspective, and that includes MOST of my close friends and family, I got sober very quietly. Except, I wrote about it and talked about it and reported on it–with everyone BUT my immediate family. This seems to be the pattern, and I don’t know why: it’s really hard for me to share my life and feelings with my family! It’s been this way forever, and I guess it comforts me to know that many people find a tribe or “family” outside their genetic one, the one they were born into.

Families.  My family is fractured, but not in the sense that I don’t have a relationship with both my mom and dad.  I’m just not sure they’ve ever been easy, or even good, relationships.  And that bothers me.  It’s always been a struggle to relate, to try to figure it out, to extract, navigate, move on, let go.  It’s all so tiring and painful. Maybe if I felt comfortable around my mother and father, then my perspective would be different.  But, it’s always been hard and I have the feeling it always will be–no matter how far along I think I’ve come in my sobriety.

The problem has become, I’m sober for three years now–I have ZERO desire to rehash all the shit.  All the blog stuff I wrote about, all the cravings drama, all the head mush and back and forth.  It’s done, it’s over, I’ve wrung and shrunk my brain to the point where I feel “normal” again.  Or, at least focused on the present, the real, the emotions that need to be felt and dealt with in order to conduct a life.  I don’t want to talk about it now with my parents.  That leaves a HUGE gap–what to fill it with, then?

I’m tired, as you can tell.  Nothing inspirational today.  I was up at 4:30 to make my shift, which was a rough one because of a bad coworker.  What I should be doing it job searching, but frankly, all I want to do is nap.  I feel like I have a hole in the middle of my stomach.  BUT…

I’m sober, so sober that I don’t even think about being sober!  My boss came in hung over and had to take a nap mid-morning (on the floor of a neighboring shop).  Most of the regulars at my coffee bar participate in this place’s “drink hard, drink-and-work harder” culture, so…I also saw quite a few peeps with pained expressions on their faces.  NO desire.  It’s cast me as a goody-goody at work, the quiet one; but I’ll take that ANY day over being hung over and not remembering what I did the night before.

Onward.  All in due time.  Grateful.  Breathe.  Joyful entitlement.  These are my daily affirmations, and they keep me on the track that I have come to cherish, and which I get to share with all of you!

Just working

2 Mar

10:49 am

Hi, all! I know I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: sorry for being MIA on here. I just can’t seem to “find” the time to blog, and maybe, just maybe, I don’t enjoy ruminating about drinking and the desire or lack thereof. It’s just not a part of my life anymore.

What IS a big part of my life is working; or rather, making ends meet as a writer. Holy cow, is it stressful. I thought by now, three years in, it’d be different, but it isn’t: I still spend most days either worried, slightly anxious, or at least thinking about “how am I going to make money this month?” Granted, I have some magazines that I write for regularly now, which I’m proud to say, but frankly, it’s only as good as the ability and desire and gumption to keep up and pitch story ideas. (And the fact of the magazine’s existence: they come and go.) Everything I write comes from my own head, or the research I do, and lately, I’ve been like, Uh. I can only work so fast, and the pay is so little that even IF I work my little butt off (which I have been doing for the past about seven months, ever since I got back from my volunteer writing trip), it still doesn’t fully cover my bills. Forget about dinners out, vacations, and new running shoes. (Now that I write that, it doesn’t seem like this can be defined as a “success,” this freelance thing; le sigh.)

Hence, I’ve learned how to barista (which I’m also proud of) and am now employed by at least one coffee shop, maybe two (I’m heading over there today to train).

So, that’s what’s up here. Just working, and working, and working–and wondering, does it have to be this hard?

The answer, obviously, is no. But, saying no is different than doing no; doing no takes ramping up for a job search and a move, which we are, but slowly. Since freelancing feels like a continual job search, it’s become hard for me to stomach a literal one. I’ve begun again, though, and am targeting, oh, I don’t know, a few months down the road. (This year is going by SO fast, isn’t it? I can’t believe it’s March already!?)

Otherwise, all is well. Still running, still truly enjoying the warm breezes and glorious amounts of sun (I swear, sun has become my new alcohol–except it’s a good medicine that actually works). Dogs are great, and my boyfriend and I are still going strong. I have all this because, and only because, I am sober.

I still seem to have friends who either chose not to get it, choose not to get it, or somehow dislike the fact that I’ve gotten sober, picked myself up, and am rocking the freelance thing. Including my brother. The brother-his girlfriend situation has died down to the point that neither he nor I make the effort to relate. I’ve just given up, and for the better; I can’t be in a relationship like that. For me, continuing to try to have a relationship with someone who very much still seems pissed at me, or lies about being pissed, or just acts in a passive-aggressive manner by not calling me–eh, I’ve been there, done that, and the longer I’m sober, the longer I don’t want to try with people like that. There are so many people, and when you get sober, you get to see them for who they really are–and that’s a GOOD thing.

Socializing is still a bit strange as a sober person, mainly because I’ve found myself to be, well, guarded. I don’t know how much to give, and I tend to hold back. And, frankly, I want to. I want to remain guarded. Something about not really having the desire to get involved with other people’s drama? It’s still too tiring and too distracting for me right now, and so while I’ll engage with people and socialize once in a while, it gets really hard for me when they start to complain or gossip. I’m not sure, I used to love to complain and gossip, but now it just seems like…a huge waste of space! Like head space, heart space, sober space. I’m working on it, and I’m definitely getting out more and feeling more and more like my “old self” these days–not so overly sensitive and “I’m sober! I’m sober!” I think it might be that I haven’t found “my people” where I’m living, and while my boyfriend would argue that it’s for my lack of trying, the past seven months have proved to me one thing: there IS a certain type of person who moves to a place like this. So, yeah, that part is not a piece of cake yet. All in due time.

My slip last October totally re-solidified my desire to stay sober: drinking literally does not work on my brain anymore. Next? It’s become as simple as that. I’ve wanted to drink a few times the past six or seven months, and I’ve sipped white wine once or twice, but each time, I immediately felt dehydrated, confused, and well, was terrified of being hung over the next day. Call it what you will, but for me, this has been an essential ingredient in re-training my brain toward not simply sobriety, but healthy coping skills.

I’m learning to much more quickly let go–literally, stop thinking, or stop acknowledging negative thinking loops–of thoughts that don’t serve me. Are these thoughts moving me forward? No? Stop thinking them. I don’t have time right now to let negative thoughts slow me down, is all. I just can’t afford it, literally.

And, I’m working on embracing the ups and downs of my emotional life. I used to run, terrified, from sadness, or boredom, or existential crises. Now? I am realizing that it’s OK to feel sad, bored, or terribly bored (ennui?). It’s OK, I don’t have to NEVER feel these things. I think I spent a lot of years always trying to live the best life, and “party on” through all the muck, but really, the muck is there, and it’s probably there for a reason…? I don’t know, maybe I just need precision medicine, like, antidepressants or something external to re-balance my neurochemistry. It’s an ongoing conversation with self, and one that I’ll probably write about in the future.

So, on that note, I gotta run! Love to all, and I promise, more posts to come more frequently!

Happy 2015!

10 Jan

11:29 am

I just wanted to check in quickly and say, happy new year to all!

Lately, I haven’t been blogging much, mainly because I’m really busy with my freelance writing business. I have to say, 2014 was a fantastic year, and I’m almost a little apprehensive: will 2015 live up to it? My “word” of the year is BUILD. Just continuing to build, and work, and reap the rewards of continued sobriety. There have been so many, and from the talks I’ve had with self and others, this year is looking to be pretty fruitful as well.

Last year I took something like five or six trips–it was a very active, confrontational year. Meaning, I went toward, and worked on, my demons, or, the things that I had to go back to. This year, that doesn’t have to be the case; I’ve circled the wagon and seen inside–not much going on that’s relevant to my present, daily life anymore.

This year, my boyfriend and I are already planning a handful of awesome trips, one of which will be another road trip through the southern part of the US–to see where we want to move to. The freelance writing, after much, much work, has finally started to pay off: not only am I writing almost constantly (because I work almost constantly), but I’m landing better-paying gigs. Hope that keeps up this year. It will keep up if I keep putting the work in, is one thing I’ve always known. You work, and it pays off. Eventually, somehow, somewhere.

Full steam ahead, continuation of the hard work that I put in last year–that’s all I can come up with for 2015. Sobriety is my cornerstone, but…not drinking doesn’t mean all that much, in the end, without accompanying work toward making my life what I want it to be. Meaning, I have a bottle of white in the fridge–haven’t even looked at it beyond using it to make risotto a couple times. BUT, have I felt tired and frustrated and unsure–and happy and joyful, and frankly, free? All the time, yes, yes, yes. Both, and neither, and in between. That’s life. It has nothing to do anymore, for me, with wine, white or red. Life is life; liquid that you put into your body is just that. I pick life to think about and do these days, not “sobriety.” Sobriety, thankfully, is done. It’s there. It’s my building block. But, that doesn’t mean I believe I have to be afraid of returning to the person who was guzzling bottles on a daily basis.

Which is a little bit why I haven’t blogged. But, mainly, it’s because I’ve been busy working and dreaming and planning for what’s to come, not what WAS. And, what isn’t. I guess I can open up some time, one day soon, to ruminate on what isn’t. Not today, though: I have writing to do (ugh), a beach to visit, some kind of kickass meal to make (I really like cooking now), dogs to walk, and “The Killing” to watch. :)

Here’s to a productive–and TRULY “happy, joyful, and free” new year. Happy, and joyful, and free is HOW YOU DEFINE IT. And, if you’re at that point, of being able to use those words, and set even just a little meaning to them; you’re well on your way to full, lasting recovery.

Up for air

21 Dec

1:03 pm

I just wanted to come up for air and say, hello! I’m still here, and pretty much just working, living, and loving.

I haven’t posted in about a month! Mainly, I’ve been seriously busy working a part-time job and another full-time-ish one as a freelance writer. Partly, however, I must admit that I simply haven’t wanted to engage in what feels like alcoholic behavior: identifying AS my problem and relating things that are happening now to my past–in a circular way that doesn’t feel like it serves me anymore. One of my tricks to getting out of my bad moods is to ACT and not think. YES, it’s important to recognize when a thought is worth addressing and when it’s simply just a thought pattern that isn’t. I know that most of the time, the mood dips can be SOLVED, and don’t have to be embraced, analyzed, or even accepted.

I have a lot of work to do, so I’m going to just sign off. I know there is a huge post coming about what MUST be said: I’m coming to no longer identify with “being” an “alcoholic.” AND, the hard part, I’m finding: extracting myself from this mental situation. Yes, I had a problem and yes, I still have no desire to drink the way I drank and to be the way I was. That is a given. However, can I not hold that close and, simultaneously, not get agitated every time I try to approach it? I’m not sure.

Happy holidays week, all! I’ve missed you, I have to say! Time to start working through some of this weirdness.

No labels

23 Nov

10:56 am

Just a quick post to say hi, and to let you know that all is well. Sober, and loving it. So sober that I don’t really even label myself as such anymore. I’ve stopped counting days, mainly because I had a life-affirming slip about a month ago–which helped to clarify, once again, why drinking is no longer for me. At least for right now in my hectic life of trying to earn a living as a freelance writer.

I keep coming back to this freelance thing in this blog, and it’s mainly because a lot of my drinking–avoidance, when it comes right down to it–was related to my sense of creativity and agency. I have found my agency; the next step is truly exploring my creativity (fiction, instead of journalism–which, while one form of creative expression, is more the work of a technician).

I have a busy day ahead (yup, Sunday is a work day like all others): three stories to finish, dogs to walk, Christmas lights to put up, prepping for tomorrow’s work day at the coffee bar (I am working as a quarter-time barista as well–of course, my perfectionism is shining through as I berate myself every time I mess up on my microfoaming technique), and then, getting ready for our Thanksgiving jaunt to a neighboring rock (in the middle of the ocean). I love my life these days, even though it’s taken quite a lot of effort to get here.

I really do love what I’m doing and how I’m living. There is so much less distraction, but yet, my life feels fuller. I grew up on a farm, but I guess 20 years of living in big cities stole my appreciation for nature. These days, I live close to water surrounded by a tropical forest–and I cannot express how nurturing this is. It’s like, all the scents, sounds, activity–it’s food for my soul. I had no idea how incomplete I was, how fractured, by the lack of nature in my life before. I used to feel like it was boring, or not enough stimulation. Now? I see just how much is going on, feel it, hear it, smell it. It’s JUST ENOUGH. It’s exactly enough.

I love hearing the sounds of the birds outside, in the trees off our deck, which hangs less than 100 feet (I guess) from the ocean. I have no idea what I did to deserve this, but I try to express gratitude within every cell of my body every second of every day (unless I’m bitching about freelancing, which is pretty much also every second of every day).

What was I going to say? Oh, labels. YEAH. So…in my writing work, I get to interview a LOT of scientists and clinicians, and sometimes around the topic of addiction and mental health. You know what I see over and over and over again? A HUGE divide between how we, as addicts, have internalized–been taught to view–our addictive behaviors, and how they, as medical professionals, actually view what’s going on. I won’t get TOO much into it here, but: enough with the labels.

You are not bad. You are not an “addict.” You are not “slipping” or “relapsing.” You are not evil. You have a substance use problem. It’s a disorder. And, however you want to define that for yourself, it makes it a lot easier when you necessarily take morality out of it. Of course, there are roots–causes; but these mainly boil down to you trying to cope with trauma, or things you’re afraid of, or lots of other bad shit. You are doing what you should be doing–coping–it’s just not working anymore.

And, there are MANY routes to healing. Many. Many many many. And, unless the epidemiological literature is lying, MOST PEOPLE with substance use problems–and, the fact is, these exist on a spectrum of severity, and no one’s problem should be diminished because it’s not “severe enough”–stop using on their own. They find incentives to stop using, and ways to recover and heal. For good.

Think about it.

And remember: that kid inside, smelling the flowers at 5 or 10 or 21 or now, 40 years old? She is still there; she is still there. THAT is being sober. THAT is you. All the rest is junk, or maybe worth saving, or maybe just layers.

Every sober day counts. Every sober day is a good day. And that means that if you made it through today, it was a good day and you are stepping toward healing. ALL–AND I MEAN ALL–YOU HAVE TO DO RIGHT NOW IS NOT DRINK, OR NOT USE, TODAY. That is it.

Happy Sunday, and I’m off to work!

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!

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