Archive | August, 2012

When do you know you’re an alcoholic? or, Blackout hell

31 Aug

1:59 am

I’m still not sure I know what “alcoholic” means, and I would be the first to say, Bup bup bup, not alcoholic, just a problem drinker. A binge drinker. A binge drinker who probably drank on average 5 out of every 7 days last year (always wine, sometimes beer, rarely hard booze), blacked out 99% of those days, and well, has had so many “near misses” as well as “misses” that it’s hard to even go back and revisit them.

Well, I could, and I do, every second of every day.

Let’s see…

Blacking out and screaming at strangers in bars, on the street, on the phone, etc. etc. etc.
Blacking out and having blacked out sex and then, after somehow managing to blame the offending party, getting into a blacked out brawl with him only to come to as I’m hitting the sidewalk — he pushed me down, I broke my arm, and I dealt with it by lying at work (I said I fell down some stairs at a party), not telling a soul (including my family), and putting in nearly 3 years of rehab to correct a shoulder that seems to have been permanently damaged/altered/tweaked
Blacking out and yelling at friends
Blacking out and yelling at cops
Blacking out and yelling at bartenders
Blacking out and calling one of the said bartenders on my phone in a blacked out rage, only to be banned from the bar the next time I tried to drink there and not even remembering what I said
Blacking out and yelling at cabbies
Blacking out and yelling at my CEO — my fricking CEO — at my work Christmas party — my fricking work Christmas party…and topping it off by kicking the door of the cab that he called for me and having my co-workers have to manhandle me and push me into it
Blacking out and being arrested for said yelling at a cabbie that very same night, spending a blacked out night in jail being a screaming mess, a second day (fighting a withdrawal panic attack) and night and then another day and evening in a jail cell with 25 other women waiting for the judge to hear my case
Getting fired for missing work for said two whole days (as well as um, yelling at my CEO and kicking the door of the cab he called for me)
Blacking out a mere two weeks later on rum at a [alternative religious] ceremony in [beautiful island], managing to NOT lose a tooth as I fell, headfirst in my blackout, onto a cement block in an outhouse; screaming at the man who was trying to kiss me as I sat on his lap; having to sport a bruise on my forehead the size of Massachusetts for the next several weeks, after enduring the shame of creeping down to breakfast the following day and forcing myself to look at my host mother and say I was sorry (as well as listen to the repeated admonishments of the house girls, “Il faut se controller” = You need to control yourself)…

Shall I go on? Oh, let’s not forget blacking out and driving up the interstate for oh, at least 45 minutes(?), only to “come to” heading south on a ramp road, crashing my rental car into a pole on the side of the road and demolishing the entire front bumper, including both headlights (two Good Samaritans found me and one, who happened to be a friend of Bill’s, drove me home, scolding me the entire way)…

And what about “exiting” a blackout in ghetto of [cold west coast city], screaming at two dudes whose apartment I had just left (apparently we were hanging out, but did we do anything else?)…?

Or, going OUT blacked out, having no recollection of hours of time spent drinking and dancing, coming to in someone’s bed on the other side of the city, stumbling home still blazing drunk…?

Or, having a three-way whose most memorable turn included being driven home by the nearly 60-year-old Scottish dude who may or may not have had sex with me (I don’t remember)…?

Shall I go on?

I could. On and on and on. The only reason I can write this all down is because I’ve kept endless journals to deal with the emotional aftermath, the self-loathing — I could have killed someone, including myself — and the confusion over where “blackout me” ends and “me” begins.

I think, in my case, the anger stems from a childhood of feeling overshadowed, conforming to a mold, never feeling like I was heard or good enough. (The random sex stems from…lack of self-esteem?) I used to binge eat, which became a huge problem for me to overcome in my early 20s, and that, I discovered, was more a response to anxiety/panic than body image issues. So, I figure, drinking is like binge eating in that it serves a purpose to quell my feelings of panic; and when someone triggers me/pisses me off during a blackout, my deep-seated panic transmutes to anger. Rage, actually.

Or, I just go willy-nilly apeshit. One of the two.

I’m still trying to process it, after all this time. It never goes away.

Ten years now — it’s been since about 2002 that I started drinking wine and doing things like pounding the shit out of cell phones, computer keyboards, laptops (yes, I’ve lost several Mac laptops due to killing their hard drives with a solid thump of my fist onto the notebook’s keypad); drunk dialing 30 calls in a row to an ex; writing crazy-nasty IMs and emails to people, some of whom have written me off (I don’t blame them). Maybe I am the person in the blackout, and everything else is just a subconscious, deeply embedded lie. Maybe not.

In any case, I don’t miss any of that shit, and I don’t want any of it to ever happen again. Yet…how can I forget? And, HOW ON EARTH can I forgive myself, if I manage to forget? All of this, the piles of horrible things I’ve done and said and let happen — they’ll never go away. They nibble at me. Some take bites now and then.

So, along with the sober calm comes deep sadness. I can’t change what happened, what others think of me, whether or not I will be forgiven. I have to move on, hold my head up, continue to strive in my career, and simply evolve.

Drunky drunky girl says, Wow, I’m really thinking more clearly

30 Aug

11:27 pm

I have to say, the past few days have been relatively…easy. I’ve only known this studio apartment — I rented it last September out of desperation to cut a few minutes off my horrifying 3-hour commute to and from “the Valley” (what tipped me over the alcoholic edge) — as a place where I fretted, thought, got drunk, hated life. Not drinking here hasn’t been the dramatic experience I thought it would be, though. In fact, the place feels empty. The walls and ceiling stare at me in silence.

What I think it is, is a reflection. Yes, a reflection of the good, calming silence staring back at them that is coming from ME.

Sure, I’ve had cravings, but not intense ones. I’ve got the bottle of red on the kitchen counter and I’d love to drink it (I spend way too much time thinking about it, though, too much brain space; but, it does make me feel excited now and again with anticipation, which is worth the $10, I guess). However, this is, well, a superficial thought. In fact, I’ve come to realize how many superficial thoughts, thoughts that come and go, that I have surrounding drinking. Now, deeper thoughts seem to abound — slower, more sustaining brain waves — pushing me through the sluggish waters of craving, of memory, of indecision, of getting stuck on one or two or three negative thoughts.

Could it be that I am getting more practiced at being sober, at focusing my mind on staying sober? Could it be that I have truly changed the way I think, and that one day, I could come back to thinking “normally” about my life, time passing, everyday “mundane” reality? It’s possible. Or, maybe I’m just having a good moment?

It’s not that I don’t want to NOT drink, but I don’t really want TO drink either. Life is boring, get over it. LOL More like, I know the cycle. But, I also feel something…else. Something deeper that’s holding me, filling me up with a simple calm. Which calm will be fucking shattered if I partake. Which calm will be disrupted and may bring rushing back all the bad memories of shit times had in this space while drunk (several noise complaints, an eviction warning, partying one night with a few crackheads off the street and ending with one stealing my bag…the list goes on and on). Reading, watching internet TV, cooking, working, just sitting here — these all seem not only much less vexing to do sober but also much more…OK. Satisfying might be too much of a stretch. OK, yes. OK, in a better way than just OK. Settling. Sustaining. It’s like, I’m coasting on a long surfboard and everything is riding on me staying balanced. I’ve gotten so much more done since getting sober, I’ve invested in actual change — work, projects, travels, relationship(s). Why break my stride?

It’s the concept of being sober that I like, that is so calming. That concept is a reality. My reality is what I’ve created it to be. I am in control. This is sobriety, too, not just NOT drinking when you want to drink. Why would I choose drinking over a long, calm ride down that wave?

Maybe this could be my Higher Power? Yeah, I still feel like drinking, but I’m going to go out (I live downtown and haven’t been out at all at night here, for anything, since getting home on Monday) and…get some ice cream. It’s cold here, as usual, and I feel somewhat claustrophobic compared to sleeping literally next to the Atlantic Ocean — walking and ice cream are my friends. (Maybe I’ll even watch more of the RNC speeches — who can resist Clint Eastwood forgetting to finish every other sentence? Gah.)

And, I’m back! And, happy about what I got done this summer!

28 Aug

10:41 pm

I just wanted to check in with y’all and let you know that after a grueling 18-hour journey, I’m back in [cold west coast city]. I got home yesterday, but was so tired I simply went straight to bed.

I had to fly three legs, and so getting through Miami on Monday — with Isaac about to hit the Gulf Coast — wasn’t easy. I was nervous after our “landing” in Miami, but turns out my connection to Dallas was delayed by several hours. By that time, we were able to get the HELL out of there in between the bands of rain, en route to Dallas where we’d spend another hour or so on the runway before taking off for the west coast. Whew. Just thinking about it makes me tired all over again.

Speaking of tired, I am. Very. BUT, I’m on day 11 and maintaining. I really want to make it past 60 days this time (remember, I caved on 61 a few weeks ago). Fortunately, I was able to get a lot of “paperwork” done today, mostly paying the bills and getting the mail — my PO box was overflowing after 12 weeks on the road — and I’ve got the next three days booked solid with work. Yes, I have three full days and then another month’s worth (on and off, but the pay will add up to adequate) of FREELANCE work. Check off a major goal!

I feel pretty good about what I’ve accomplished this summer. And, in order to not drink tonight — I, gulp, bought a bottle of red at Trader Joe’s this afternoon — I’m going to make a list of these items. I guess I just have the need to accomplish, and if that’s what it takes for me to not drink, so be it. And in any case, most of us are here to work; that’s what we do, that’s what we need, that’s what drives us. Maybe I’ll be off on another leisure trip soon, but right now, I’m happy to have something to carry me through to my SECOND day 14 (and beyond) of sobriety.

1. Moved out of my place in [cold west coast city] (basically) = sorted, packed, and shipped almost everything that I shipped to myself two summers ago from [cold east coast city] back to [cold east coast city]
2. Found a sublet (no slight task) in [cold east coast city], flew there, received my shipped items, and stored them in my storage unit = all my stuff is in one place, the place I think I’m most likely to call “home home” for the next several-to-many years…
3. Lived in [cold east coast city] for 6 weeks = the goal was to go back and live there for a while, so I could one, get a taste of life there now and if I really do want to move back, and two, follow up on some freelance contacts
4. Found freelance science writing work, met an editor(s), exchanged many emails, signed a few contracts, and lined up PAID freelance editing work = I am now officially freelancing for science magazines and biotech companies (one of each, but hey, it’s a start; I got my first payment direct deposited the other day)
5. Went to a friend’s wedding in Seattle, and stayed sober during = yay
6. Lived in [beautiful island] for 6 weeks, thanks to the HELP of my boyfriend = the goal was to stay sober, develop my relationship — not really something I’d “written down,” so to speak, but important to me — and see how the freelance thing and living with someone down there might be able to be made a permanent thing
7. GOT SOBER, thanks to the HELP of my readers and my boyfriend = sorta kinda, but 60 days is the longest I’ve ever gone, not to mention, I’ve had to work hard on the detox/withdrawal stages, opening up to AA, and training my mind to replace my cravings with basically everything else in life I’ve been avoiding or that have seemed to lose most of their luster
8. Lost weight = one of my ongoing goals is to run more and commit to bikram yoga, and I felt like, at least during my 6 weeks in [cold east coast city], I did that

They say that you shouldn’t make a lot of changes in your life when you’re trying to get sober. Well, I feel like I don’t have much choice. And, for me, the one major thing that helps me to stay sober is to remain busy; lacking goals and a sense of accomplishment is one of my biggest triggers, it seems.

So, there you have it. I’m tired and wanting to zone, so I’ll sign off. Yup, the craving is there but I’m just going to ignore it. Like the dishes, it’ll be there in the morning. (My mom always used to leave the dishes in the sink, saying, They’ll be there in the morning…)

Thinking more about AA and my “Higher Power”

23 Aug

6:54 pm

I just read more about AA — basic history, beliefs, the steps, historical context, etc. It’s outdated in a way, sure. But mainly, I think it might just “work” for some people and others, not so much.

I mean, let’s check it out:

1. Powerless? Check. Admitting to this? Um…OK, check. (I hesitate, simply because I really do think that you are not powerless, per se; you want to drink and you have your reasons for doing so. You WANT to get shitfaced and black out and let it all hang out, and YOU FUCKING DO. I ran up against this time and time again, whenever my brother would ask me, So, DDD, you can’t stop after what, three or four glasses? When do you feel like you just can’t stop? And I’d always say, Well, three, yes, three. By the third glass, I don’t WANT to stop. I can, I just never want to. This is, of course, if I’m not already blacking out, in which case I’m not in control anymore. So, yes, check.)

2. Power greater than myself can restore me to my sanity? Sure. Check. I mean, not that I believe that my “higher power” has to be a spiritual entity, as it were. In fact, I can see many a thing being my higher power, including:
*a sense of purpose
*self-love, or the opposite of self-loathing, i.e, I’m good enough and smart enough, so why am I doing this shit to myself?
*a desire to consistently succeed in work, relationships, etc. (especially after seeing what drinking does to them)
*a memory of an absence of craving, and the possibility that life can be like that again
*fear of drinking, and what could happen the next time

3. Turn my will over to God, as I understand him/her? Eh… I don’t know. I think many of us struggle with this idea of fate versus individual purpose. I think it better to consider, WHY do I drink? A lack of purpose, self-hatred, loneliness…maybe even specific circumstances? This could be a lack of “God.” I think turning one’s will over to God could be interpreted outside the context of an actual god (i.e., let a spiritual sense of purpose tell you what to do with your life and time on this planet), but I have seen the more traditional notion advanced in the AA meetings I’ve been to. I like to think of it as, finding my sense of purpose/service, and simply doing that all the time. THAT is what makes me feel less like drinking.

4. – 12. Moral inventory, admitting wrongs, trying to help others. Sort of. On my own, which is what many of us do, on a daily basis. I’m tired of strip mining my mental inventory of horrible drinking mistakes; there ain’t nothing left down there. Running away into booze is lame, yes, WE GET THAT. Making us think that *unless we do the program, we’ll always somehow be selfish drunks?* Kind of a turnoff, quite frankly.

Addiction research has shown that all sorts of neurotransmitters are affected by drinking, not least of which is dopamine, which makes you feel GREAT when it’s enhanced by the booze. Until you realize you’re dependent on this exogenous (outside) source when it’s suddenly taken away. You kill your physiologic feedback loops and it can take a long time for you to normally and adequately start producing dopamine on levels that feel good again. Though, maybe your brain never did, you were always in deficit, and that’s why you turned to booze, or whatever, to self-medicate.

At the end of the day, I drink because I want to fix what’s wrong, not because I intentionally want to hurt people. Maybe other drinkers don’t think twice about why and how and when they turn to the bottle. Maybe that’s why AA works for them, because it’s the first time they’ve put it down long enough to take a look at their “moral inventory.” Who knows?

Another lethargic day…

23 Aug

5:15 pm

Maybe I need to change my diet? Take a nap? The thought of doing any work makes me feel anxious and makes my head feel like it’s inflating more and and more with air. I wonder if I have a migraine? Doubt it; it’s not as much pain as I feel nauseated and dizzy, like I’m sea sick. And, I can’t seem to concentrate on typing this, let alone slog through my anxiety over flying “home” to [cold west coast city] (where I haven’t been living since June) and working, for real, on science writing stuff. Takes a brain. Don’t have a brain.

When I get back, I think I’m going to go on a strict diet of low-sugar, no meat. I’ve been drinking WAY too much Diet Coke since I quit drinkin’, and honestly, I think it’s worse — much worse — for me than the loads of wine I was taking in. Granted, the wine gives me liver problems, steals brain cells, and makes my belly fat, but…what the fuck does Diet Coke do? I know for SURE that it’s making me addicted to it, and to sugar, in a way that feels (well, yesterday it felt) almost “diabetic.” The urge to eat a sugary muffin yesterday before I felt like I was about to pass out was startingly strong. I can’t help but crave sweets now that I’m not drinking, and it’s been taking all my willpower to eat well and not replace the binge drinking with the occasional binge eating. All in all, I’ve had a very healthful summer, but lately, I’ve fallen off the wagon when it comes to moderating my diet soda intake as well as working out. Can’t WAIT to get that goin’ on again when I get back. Yoga, jogging, hiking, and possibly some swimming…same as here, but on the regular. And more of it.

Jesus, my head hurts. Feels swollen inside, is making me want to close or squint my eyes in order to see straight. Hmm…

Working and alcohol withdrawal = TMI!

22 Aug

4:03 pm

So, I was looking up long-term (or, as the doctors call it, “post-acute”) withdrawal symptoms for long-term alcohol abuse, and how long they last. Ugh. Nothing specific, but it seems more than likely that it could last for months, or longer! I think I definitely have some of these symptoms, like mood swings, general sluggishness, inability to focus, a lack of efficiency in my entire thought process, and now, a headache-ness (neck, back, and head pain that feels like vertigo and/or sea sickness) that is hard to work around. The headache is bizarre simply cuz I never get headaches. I doubt it’s got anything to do with withdrawal, but…I did feel ill and a general “detox”-type feeling for the first month or so after I quit drinkin’, so who knows?

I know I should be patient; I will have to be in order to “re-enter” my world of science writing and journalism. I haven’t worked in journalism since 2010 and haven’t worked a real job since early this year. Journalism takes a LOT of editing skills when it comes to information absorption, and the entire process of “keeping up” on news and journals can be more labor intensive, mentally speaking, than learning the actual presented information. Ack, fucking information! TOO MUCH OF IT. Plus, maybe I’m legitimately overwhelmed with the amount of changes that I’ve subjected myself to over the past year, as well as the number of decisions I have to make soon (I’m moving, starting my own freelancing business, looking forward to possibly traveling and/or long-term volunteering in the next few months, getting sober)…

Anyway, the point is, do headaches come with the territory? And, how long will the withdrawal symptoms, mainly the mood swings, the lack of “wham-bam” energy, and the indecision/feeling overwhelmed and overloaded by the smallest of things, last?

Plus, wasn’t I over the worst of it, having gone 60 days like, a week or so ago? (I’m on day 71 minus 2…)

(I *am* additionally distracted, though, by the fact that we’re looking down on Isaac, which as of an hour ago, was going to be passing by our island as a tropical storm! I’ve never lived through a storm or a hurricane, so that could get interesting.)

Never goin’ back to detoxing…

20 Aug

3:40 pm

A short post:

I fell off the wagon twice after 60 days of being sober and man, it sucked. But, it was quite anticlimactic in a way — same blackout, same hangover, same feeling like a piece of shit. BUT, I realized two things:

1. I will never again have to detox and go through withdrawal — both physical and emotional — or cravings like I did during the first 3 to 5 weeks of being sober. That was hard, and for the most part, I was sick, had intense cravings, and felt very, very lonely. BUT, I will NEVER have to go through that again! Sure, I drank last week and did and said some stupid things and spent two days hung over, but…no one and nothing can subtract my 60 days. So, it’s not at all like I’m starting over. I’m simply starting again continuing to build on my stronger body and mind.

2. I like being sober. I like the consistency and the predictability of it. Last night I had zero desire or inclination to drink; we had people over, and I even drank WATER as I was talking to them.

It’s funny, but I used to be a total dork, didn’t drink at all until college, and used to go to frat parties and pour my beers in the garbage cans when no one was looking. (I hated beer.) Then I went to France and discovered wine (and that I had a binge eating disorder), but that’s another story. Point is, I used to hate my old, goody-goody self, the “mold” that I was cast — and trapped, suffocating — in by my family, my small town, my siblings, my friends. (Myself, too, but I felt like a victim.) Which, I’m pretty sure, is one of the many reasons I started and continued for so long to “party” and binge drink, just to prove to everyone how “cool” I actually was.

Now, though, there is nothing to prove and maybe sober IS the new black. At the end of the day, being drunk is a prison, not an escape; learning that there is and never was anything to escape from — I can simply leave, say no, or change my perspective and/or reaction — is key to me staying sober and embracing living sober, or rather, LIFE. Time to be that dork again. 😉

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