Archive | April, 2013

6 weeks and going strong…

30 Apr

12:53 am

Ain’t nuttin’ gonna hold me down! Oh, no! I got to keep on movin’!

Welp, I’ve started like, four posts and can’t seem to organize my thoughts tonight, so I’ll be brief: 42 days again and counting. Six weeks has flown by, and I’m actually going to hit up my journal now and see what, exactly, I’ve done in those past 6 weeks! And, while I am looking forward to having 12 weeks under my belt again, I know the next 6 weeks holds a lot of choices and changes. So, I’m not looking forward to it going fast.

I remember how grateful I was when I had 6 weeks last fall. Now? Of course, I’m grateful. However, it just doesn’t seem like that long of a period of time. And, the cravings are still there, they just come in the form of reactions. I can see my reactions much more clearly than I can feel my cravings, so…in that way, it’s GREAT to be at 6 weeks again and be on such solid ground. Cravings have morphed into reactions, and the latter are much easier to observe and deal with.

I had a lot to say tonight re: AA, and cravings, and anger, and addiction, and… Alas, it’s not gonna happen. For tomorrow then. Say night, night, Unicorn with Sparkly Teeth. You’ve been a strong girl lately.

Of course I want to drink! But I won’t…

24 Apr

11:58 pm

And, I know I won’t. For now anyway. This post is mainly for others, to shore them/us up in the face of those continual cravings. I’m not proud of it, but almost a year later and I still have a LOT of cravings. Then again, I’ve made a lot of big changes, am trying to resolve some important decisions (to have kids or not, to move back to the mainland or not, to go back to school this fall for another master’s degree or not), and feel at odds between the two! Before I quit drinking, I don’t think I would’ve been so easily able to articulate exactly what is triggering my cravings, so that, I would say, is DEFINITE progress. Go, me. (I think?)

I remember the first many months (six?) of getting sober, and they weren’t easy at all. And, for some reason, I’ve been having trouble putting thoughts into words (gasp!) the past few days, so here’s a numerical list of some of what I’ve learned since last June about the ongoing process of choosing not to drink instead of drink:

1. I always want to drink. And, when people at AA meetings, or on the blogs, say that “the urge to drink has left them” or “being sober is so fucking awesome,” I CANNOT reflect that. It just does not gel as true for me. OF COURSE I WANT TO DRINK. Duh. Yes, I like drinking. Yes, I want that first glass or three. Yes, I like feeling buzzed; I want that feeling of warmth, of place, of lack of struggle against my existential issues. I LIKE feeling nothing, sometimes. And, frankly, a part of me thinks that wine was a good solution, at some point in my life. And, damn it, sometimes I really miss it.

2. In general, hating on oneself is PART OF THE DRINK. Once I got sober, I realized that all that self-loathing and self-ruminating was, in fact, not necessary to hold on to. The longer I went sober, the less sad and depressed I felt, the less I was beholden to the past, the less I felt the need to say I was sorry about the horrifying things I had said or done. I learned that it was not only OK to let it go, but also that I needed to. No more apologies. No more beating myself up. I’m not saying that amends aren’t needed, but when you continue to remain sober, you start to let it all go. And, if that includes friends and family members who choose to either hold onto their grudges or be fearful of your newfound emotional maturity, well, they CAN go; they’re not worth fighting to keep.

3. Getting sober (at least getting a handle on it) BEFORE hitting AA meetings is the way I would advise myself to do it. I found, personally, that going to AA meetings was a HUGE stressor. All these “steps,” all this “ideology” that I didn’t know whether or not I agreed with (I don’t); it was all Way Too Much. Some of the time, I had to uncomfortably defend myself against the “AA bullies” at the meetings, saying repeatedly, I need to take my time, I need to do it in my own time. Looking back, I can now say that it’s this, simply: Getting sober comes first, getting “right with God” comes a distant second. My refusal to cave in the face of everyone at the meetings pressuring me to “do it their way” was by far, the best foot I’ve ever put down. Getting sober does NOT require any kind of spiritual epiphany, in my opinion. Getting sober requires your acknowledgement, slow as it may come, that the reason this is so hard is because addiction changes your brain circuitry. Getting sober requires you flexing your sober muscle–which is you not drinking when you really want to–over and over and over again.

I’m pretty sure that *if I had not run into severe consequences,* I would have kept drinking. For sure, actually. Yet, with crippling hangovers and the inability to predict what I would do when I was blacked out, it was simply no longer an option. It was like, drinking wine could be as dangerous as drinking toilet water. It might NOT be, but it COULD be.

All that being said, I can say that I like being sober. And, here’s what I like specifically:

1. Not giving up my power.
2. Not feeling trapped by the desire to drink away my social anxiety.
3. Not revealing my anger, especially in its raw form.
4. Being able to see others for who they are.
5. Being able to make choices based on real information and real emotional feedback.

I go back to these things in my mind, and like others, play out the horrifying–and possible fatal–video to the end. I think a LOT about how drinking would take away my power, how it would expose me, how I’d make bad choices based on really bad information. I just can’t. I’ve come to care about myself way too much to do that to myself anymore!

What I’m saying is, you can still really want to drink and not feel like a noncommittal failure because of this. Wanting to quit (action based on higher brain planning) CAN COEXIST–does, I bet in 100 percent of the “cases”–with wanting to drink (desire based on inner brain reacting). Take a deep breath, then, and know you are on the right track.

(And, then she hit “delete.” Oh, yeah! The best part about being sober? Being willing and able to simply think all of the above and then…let it go. All these thoughts came, they will all go, and I don’t have to either react or care about them. Huzzah!)

So much to post, but I’ll start with…Day 35 tomorrow

21 Apr

11:18 pm

But, it hasn’t been easy, or as easy as I thought it would be, I have to admit.

It’s been a few days since my last post–I’m sorry for getting lazy about acknowledging all of your amazing and supportive comments–and as seems to be the case with this “getting sober” business, I’ve gone up, down, and side to side. Some days I’m like, Aww, YES, this sober stuff is awesome! I feel good, I don’t want to drink, I’m getting shit done, I can’t wait to get more shit done. No wolfie-boy on my back, howling for a sip of red wine. Easy.

Other days–and there have been several–I’m like, FUCK THIS NONSENSE. My life isn’t that much better sober, and well, is it me, or do people just annoy me more? People–you know, I have a hard time with people, as an introvert; I just don’t get them. Choosing (being forced?) to interact with and witness other people while constantly sober? Well, let’s just say, it’s not the same without my merlot-colored glasses; I find myself wondering why so many people seem so fucked up and thinking how no one is as funny or kind or interesting as they once were. (Confession: I am REALLY FUCKING TIRED of the mainstream media blowing this Boston mess up, and I am PMSing. So, getting around me with a knife is a definite no-no at the moment, as might be taking any of my angry words to heart.)

Tonight, though, after a few days of simply biting down and letting the feelings/thoughts pass–for once, it feels, I am truly happy to have not given in. Over some bridge. At the clearing. (This has happened before, if I remember correctly back to a post I wrote last summer, but not nearly the same sense of conclusion: I don’t miss drinking once the urge to drink actually passes.)

I’d say that prior to today, not giving in was up to about 95 percent awesome; the remaining 5 percent was, Aww, man, I still missed out on getting buzzed, though! Not today. I’m relieved to have sat through the cravings, knowing full well–and trusting more and more in this experiential knowledge–that they will. Go. Away. And that, nothing–not one thing–is worth drinking over. (Yesterday I tripped while running and sprained my ankle; I cursed and cried and hated on my life, and was like, Why is this shit SO hard? All of this? My reaction was to want to drink; not that I wanted to be drunk, but I wanted to drink. Pretty soon, I was home, icing the ankle and realizing that no, I didn’t want to drink, and no, it really wouldn’t make me feel better, and no, it SO wasn’t worth breaking my 35-day streak over.) In fact, I don’t (really?) miss having been high, and I definitely don’t miss the memory loss, the confusion, the fake emotional roller coaster, the hangover, the disappointment and frustration…

Honk, honk! Sober mack truck, coming through!

Am I an alcoholic? Wrong question

15 Apr

10:59 am

I recently had the “opportunity” (haha) to watch people who don’t care about drinking drink. In a word, it’s baffling.

I went boating yesterday and people brought booze. Of course, after going 60 days last summer, then 5 weeks last fall, then another NEAR-SIX MONTHS up until about a month ago sober, I had my Diet Coke at the ready. However, I was like a dog, turning its head at every “pfft” and “pop” as the bottles were extracted (in slow motion) from the coolers. Not necessarily because I was jones’ing for a drink, but mainly out of habit…and curiosity. How do non-alcoholics actually drink?

I shit you not: over the course of about 4 or 5 hours, I watched two people consume two bottles of prosecco and then, maybe a few more drinks each. WHAT. I would’ve downed the first bottle in less than an hour, and then kept going. Another girl “properly” drank oh, about 3 or 4 or 5 drinks (not THAT much, is what I’m saying–it was champagne and wine) over those same 4 or 5 or 6 hours. WHAT? I would have slurped down at LEAST that much by noon.

What I noticed the most was, these people seemed to have about as much disinterest as interest in drinking their booze. They seemed to really have been able to take it or leave it. There was no compulsion, no clutching, no fast-paced “more more more” that goes on for me. BIZARRE.

They are not alcoholics…because they do not drink alcoholically.

The tables turned in my sober journey when I stopped trying to answer the question that seemed to be on everyone’s lips: am I an alcoholic? In AA meetings, saying those words made me feel very uncomfortable. And, most importantly, they didn’t ring true. For me, anyway. While some may argue that semantics are meaningless, I would say the opposite: we learn to define our world in terms of words, the words that we hear, and say in our heads; the words we use to give form to our thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

I realized that whatever I may “be,” I DO drink *alcoholically.* I use wine, for instance, instead of drink it. That is not variable, open to discussion, or a question in my mind anymore. I drink alcoholically because, somehow (and that’s what’s going on now with me, figuring out where “somehow” began and how it’s going to end) I developed a compulsion–a need, a screaming wolfie-boy want–to drink. I care about drinking. I don’t care about eating, or smoking, or popping pills. I don’t care about tanning or pulling out my hairs or hoarding or growing my nails ten feet long. And so, when I see others drinking non-alcoholically, I’m like, BIZARRE.

Day 28, and counting. And, just because it’s so awesome, please check out Belle’s 100-day challenge! I’m right there with you. 🙂

Loose ends

12 Apr

10:23 pm

I feel like my life is a bunch of loose ends right now–or, maybe one big loose end. And I can’t rush tying any of the knots.

I know, I know: healing takes time. However, it’s taken–taking?–me a good many, MANY months to, let’s just say, begin to embrace the downtime. The waiting. Sometimes it’s of my own accord, and sometimes it’s against my will.

What do I mean by this? Well, as a freelance writer, I’m either doing one of three things, I’ve found: working, procrastinating, or looking for work. None of these are fun, I have to admit, and it’s hard to embrace spending my time like this–and being acutely aware of it ALL THE TIME because I’m sober. (In fact–and don’t get me wrong, I’m usually really glad to be sober these days–it gets tiring being sober all the time; like, WHEN do I get a break?) I spend a LOT of time wondering what’s wrong with me in that my “oomph” seems to have disappeared. The rest of the time, it seems, I’m thinking about the “then what.”

I’ve been trying to figure out the “then what,” and sometimes I feel like it’s all too much and doesn’t matter anyway. No, I don’t necessarily want to drink, but that almost makes me feel worse: I must have completely given up on “making things better” if I don’t even believe for a second (OK, a minute) that wine will help! At least when I was drinkin’, I somehow equated drinking with at least TRYING to make things better. It’s a fucked up mentality, but it still sort of makes sense to me.

I know all these thoughts are just thoughts–or, better yet, thought loops–and that if I simply wait, or ignore them, they’ll go away. Or, I can watch them and think, Man, no wonder I drank, these thoughts are bullies of the first degree! Negative thoughts. They’re not any different from other people’s, I’ve realized; I’m not unique, and that’s a good thing. Yet, I still have good days and bad days when it comes to DEALING with the thoughts. On good days, I collect them all into one big folder and hit delete. Buh-bye. On bad days, well, I let them control how I feel. Which usually turns out to be bad.

I’m learning how to use better coping mechanisms, though, which is a direct result of HAVING to, due to not using wine anymore as my blanket and crutch. Crying works, but only if I allow myself to cry and then turn it off (Do I REALLY have to cry about not having published a book yet? No.). Taking a few deep breaths, putting on my shoes, and going for a run helps a LOT (actually, doing any kind of forward-moving activity helps). Drinking way too much caffeine makes it worse (duh), and well, catching myself beFORE I turn into a self-pitying mess of angst is best. Talking it out, writing it out, these help, too. Getting shit done helps, of course, but also, realizing that Rome wasn’t built in a day; sometimes, the (excruciatingly?) slow plodding is necessary, even though we don’t feel it to be satisfactory. I’d be the first to admit that I’m addicted to “doing” and to accomplishment; these are deep-seated habits, let’s just say, born out of years of being socialized to believe that achievement equals success.

Some of my coping mechanisms are better than others, of course, but the main thing I’m learning as I continue to have to confront myself and stay sober is: just sit and wait–and feel it–and the shit passes. Night turns into day, a mood turns up instead of down, and I feel one step closer to being able to actually tie up some of these loose ends. And that one step HAS to be enough. And, it is. It didn’t use to be, and I thank God(dess) for the brain’s ability to learn, and grow.

The “problem”–and this applies directly to the process of getting sober, too–is that implementing change is a step-by-step process. Sort of like a science experiment. Imagine being a researcher who spends years, a lifetime even, trying to figure something out? It’s all about incremental steps forward. And, often, that is the BEST we can hope for.

Just because you think it, does not make it so

10 Apr

10:59 am

It’s been almost a week since I last posted, but I’m doing well. Great, actually. It’s been a whole week since I dumped that “temptation bottle” of wine down the kitchen sink, along with the rest of the booze in my house–and frankly, I’ve barely thought about drinking let alone wanted to drink. Day 23, and rocking it.

For a work project, lately I’ve been reading about the neuroscience of addiction. My, oh, my, how our shit gets fucked up. NO WONDER it takes us so long to heal. And here we are, blaming and hating on ourselves. Dude, the wolf voice is real.

I went camping yesterday, and a friend met us down on the beach. We got to talking about drugs and booze and he said that his ex-wife (now deceased from complications of alcoholism, sadly–she was like, mid-50s?) used to get drunk on the way to the restaurant. Like, literally, her personality would change as they were driving, before she even got near the first glass. He said he had friends who would experience the symptoms of being high–like vomiting; kind of hard to fake that–en route to get the heroin. He said they had to pull the car over for the guy to throw up onto the side of the road, miles before their pickup point!

I, for one, have found that my cravings don’t mean I really want to drink. I THINK I want to drink, but I don’t. I have experienced the feeling of being high on wine, of having my mood swing totally UP–all by thinking about, anticipating drinking. In the articles I’ve read, these reward circuits ARE, in fact, firing; the problem is, they’ve become sensitized to different amounts of neurotransmitters and different mental stimuli, let’s just say, so their firing isn’t associated with a healthy reward or a moderate amount of reward. For instance, every time I sit down and watch a movie, I want to drink. Every time I unfold my chair on the beach, I want to drink. My brain is associating these events with drinking, and bam, my reward circuits start firing.

I also read a piece where the gist of it was, there are different circuits (i.e., chemicals and neurons) for want/desire and reward/pleasure. Like, I can want to drink, but the pleasure derived from this is different than the so-called pleasure from actually drinking. Which might explain how I can feel my mood shift simply by thinking about how nice it would be to have a glass of wine. (I wonder if this applies to the whole, Absence makes the heart grow fonder, adage? 😉 )

The problem is, it’s not real.

The solution I’ve found is, let it keep happening until it doesn’t! And, miraculously, it STOPS HAPPENING. Or, it happens less, and less powerfully. Or, you learn to ignore it. Or, your brain simply starts to right itself, and dials those circuits back down to normal.

We spent all day Monday and Monday night on the beach. Back in the day (is it really in the past?) I’d feel nervous about “being trapped” in front of that much time, with no wine to escape to. I KNEW I would feel trapped, like I couldn’t breathe, having to just sit there and be; and it would make me dread going or doing things that involved just sitting and being.

Sit there and be? Without feeling irritable, trapped, anxious? NO WAY. Yet…I did it! Or, it did me. I not only had very few cravings, but there were points along the way where I felt just as high/drunk as I might have felt if I had actually drunk. Of course, better: all the happy and contentment and none of the confused descent into madness.

I was also able to just sit there and stare at the night sky. WITHOUT feeling like I wanted to interrupt the process, or disrupt it with a drink. I could sit there and just be. Wow. Who would have thought it possible?

THIS is what I’m talking about when I say the cravings “subside” after a few months. Now, more than ever, I can “see” my brain at work, and use my knowledge to defend myself against the urges, cravings, thoughts of drinkin’. They are not real. And, incredulous as it may seem to us as we embark on parting ways with alcohol, they go away. The mind rights itself. Maybe not completely, and maybe not exactly the way I’ve described, but the thoughts come less, the associative thinking dies down, and we’re left with something we haven’t seen in a long, long time: a flat terrain that is our mind, a blank canvas tethered at the ends of a solid frame that is our brain. Both are like the surface of the water on a windless day. And, my, how long we’ve waited for that calm.

So, onward. Day 23 and…not really counting. I mean, I don’t think it’ll really start to be all that exciting until day 90 again, maybe. Who knows? At the moment, I’m not really thinking how “nice” it’d be to have a glass of wine. I know it wouldn’t be “nice,” and I know the next three days (shit, let’s put it at a week, who am I kidding?) wouldn’t be “nice.” And frankly, by the time I get to this point in the thought process, my brain has given up and I’ve forgotten about the craving.

Just because you think it, does not make it so.

Reality check

3 Apr

10:22 pm

I got a big gush of “whoa” tonight in my attempt to re-read some of the past year’s worth of journal entries. I’ve journaled my entire life, but over the past decade, a lot of it has consisted of miserable, self-hating rants about how horrible I feel to be hung over, what a shit I am to keep doing this to myself, and how lame I am, in general. However, this past year takes the cake: my journal entries were so rambunctious in just how GRUELING it is to get and keep sober, I had to stop reading somewhere around July! It was tiring and confusing and downright tedious going in and out of it all–I mean, the physical and mental stages of withdrawing, and craving, and fearing, and doubting, and wondering, Can I really do this?

For me, that analytical mess has passed, thank God(dess). Yet, I’m not that self-delusional (anymore) to note that, yes, while I’ve changed and somehow managed to outgrow (or, outrun?) all those thoughts, the bottom line is, I still have the tendency toward compulsion. I appreciate all your comments, but mostly, I appreciate the ones who’ve said, A slip IS a big deal because of what it allows you to think, which is, Oh, sure, I can drink! I’m healed!

That’s the voice of compulsion. It’s more like, I give up my autonomy for a prison of the mind. That prison is the need to drink, the compulsion, the wanting, the belief that it’ll work this time. And the door to that locked cell is booze itself.

Confession: I bought a bottle of red wine the other day. (Remember when I said I spent ahem, a “while” staring at the shelves and shelves of cheap, good red wine at a big box store? Well, yeah. I took down one of those bottles, then put it back. Then, took down another, with .5% less alcohol content, and bought it. I know, that .5% is really going to make me SO much less drunk.) It’s been a few days, and I’ve had it in my desk drawer. Well, I finally uncorked it this afternoon and poured it down the kitchen sink. Along with a half-bottle of Stoli and two mini-bottles of Jager (purchased in a near-blackout state; obviously, one almost NEEDS to be unconscious to want to drink Jager).

No, I hadn’t had any of the hard booze these past near-6 months, but…I never dumped it. I guess I never really committed to being sober. DING DONG. Reality check.

I have to say, I was shaking as I opened the bottle of red. I mean, I was nervous. What if my hand suddenly turned and started pouring it down my throat? What if I licked my fingers and just couldn’t help myself? As I watched it drain, I realized I still don’t have much control over my compulsion–it still affects me. Of course, I had no intention of drinking any of it, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure that somehow, it wouldn’t end up in my mouth.

I took a few sniffs of it as I poured, two or three really big whiffs. I thought it would give me the sensation of nausea, but it gave me what felt like my drinking life passing before my eyes in a series of images/memories, most really horrible but some good. And then, to my surprise, came the slightly panicked thoughts: Holy crap, what about all the good times? Am I really giving them up forever?

With the hard alcohol, I was like, Pfft, whatever, don’t let the door hit ya on the way out! Yet…as I proved to myself last year, I would SO totally drink that shit if I was already drunk on red wine. So Totally. And, I know it. DUN DUN. Reality check number two. (I NEVER did that prior to last year, ever ever ever. I wasn’t a hard booze person. Yet, I must admit, as my alcoholism got worse last spring, I WAS hitting the tumblers of vodka, often (depending on how drunk I felt) skipping the mixer entirely.)

What’s the lesson? I’m a bit scared. I thought I had this licked, but yet, I was shaking with an actual fear that I–my physical person–was not one of mind. That somehow, I might lose my head and in a flash, start gulping down wine! And, that this is a compulsion that I can’t seem to manage.

In all my journaling and thinking over the past few days, I can sum it up in a few sentences: I like living without a crutch, without having the option of running home to wine. Drinking is a prison; outside of this, I learn–mainly about myself, what makes me tick. And, it’s a given that, regardless of how I FEEL about not drinking, when I don’t drink, my life moves forward and when I do, it doesn’t.

So, September 14th, folks. My 180-day mark. I feel relieved. And, strong. Happy to be (back?) inside what appears to be a clear bubble, in which the entire world is reflected back at me. And…one last thing:

*glitter ball* times two, heading right at me!

(*glitter ball* means, my unicorn has spit one out of her horn, and it’s flying your way in a tiny flame-tail of explosion and firecracker and goodness)

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