Archive | September, 2013

More days, is what’s next

29 Sep

11:45 am

Well, I’ve had two weeks to sort of “toy” with the idea (just an idea) of drinking again. Starting drinking again. Whatever that means, I’m not even sure. And…

I’ve decided that since it’s just right there, I’ll set my next immediate goal at 200 days (which is this coming Friday). Then, on October 12th–a mere week later–I’ll celebrate my “year soberversary,” which is in quotes because since last October 12th, I’ve missed ONE day, right in between at 6 months. So, there will be treats–more treats this time, less excuses for not allowing myself real treats–on those two days. And a mini-parade. With some glitter balls thrown in for good measure.

And then…I’ll set my goal for another 100 days! That’ll take me to what seems like a nice, even, good-sounding number: 300. This will be on January 12th, 2014. That’s the goal, 300 days.

(From there, it’s really easy to see that 365–a true year sans The Grape–is right around the corner, but, I’ll re-assess when I get to 300.)

Why all the planning and days-counting? Well, it helps. It really does. For me, sometime around my 6-month mark (the first time around), I began to see sobriety as less like a lack of drinking and more like a window of time during which I could get shit done, achieve some goals. I could sit back, take a deep breath, and not feel pressured, rushed, or anxious. It was a weird shift, feeling like I could actually rest EASY knowing that I didn’t have to drink, that I would be able to focus on other things besides drinking and not drinking.

So, that’s how this feels now. Once I get to October 12th, it’ll simply be another 100 days where I have “off” from thinking about drinking and “on” for doing my thing–plugging away, moving forward, achieving some new directions.

I start a new job tomorrow. Baker’s assistant. We’ll see. It pays minimum wage, but it’s enough that if I do that AND keep writing on the side, I can easily cover my bills down here. It’s a start, I guess. Back to the “real world.”

As I’ve said in a few previous posts, lately I’ve realized that for whatever reasons, I lost confidence in getting sober. By taking myself out of the game in order to heal, I also isolated. (And, for this reason, I sort of feel a general sense of bitterness toward sobriety, like it’s a bad parent.) Now, though, I feel like my voice is coming back, my ability and desire to use it. My presence. A sense of direction, of goal-oriented-ness.

Sure, I’ve still got a thin skin and worry about everything, let’s face it; but, that old, caution-to-the-wind, “warrior-ness” that I carried around for years is coming back. It almost did me in, carrying myself like that, so this “new me” will be a balancing act: how much to care, and strive, and achieve, and feed my hungry ego (yes, it still cries itself to sleep every night); and how much to just be and do, to let it all go and embrace a softer, gentler, less achievement-focused way of living. I still long for structure, in a way; for those 60-hour work weeks. I think my real addiction might be work, but that’s for another post.

Anyway, today’s a work day. And up most immediately? Calling my dad–it’s a difficult conversation with him; he continues to be depressed, and I have to tell him we’re not coming to visit this fall–and my brother. Gulp. My brother and I haven’t spoken for almost a year. I’m honestly not sure if he’s still holding a grudge from “the New Year’s Eve incident,” when I blacked out and screamed bloody murder at him and his (crazy) girlfriend. That was not this past year, but the year before–two years ago. I’ve been more than a little ticked off that they dragged it out this long–I tried, and tried, and tried saying I was sorry, and I ended up closing my door, so to speak. Now, I’m ready to open it, I guess; to welcome their forgiveness (if that is what it is) and–I hate to put it this way but it’s how I feel–forgive them for not forgiving me. Wish me luck.

Then, maybe some personal writing. Another exercise in patience. At least I have time–because I’m SOBER. And no hangover to make a waste of me today–because I’m SOBER. And a growing sense of “can do”-ness–you know the drill. And, a momentum, doing what needs to be done–you know why. A sense of calm, of peace, of lack of regret, of self-reliance and self-constancy–is that even a word? Self-constancy. Like, as long and wide as a desert; I am here, constant in myself. I like having this SO much that it almost brings tears to my eyes.

Happy Sunday, everyone.

What’s next?

27 Sep

11:03 am

Damn it, I KNOW what’s next.

Keep not drinking. (It’s interesting that I choose those words, and not, Stay sober. There’s something about “not drinking” and “keeping on doing it” that rings truer for me. It’s more like it’s my choice, and it’s getting me–actively taking me–to a different place.)

I’ve been at it for almost 16 months. I fell off a few times early on, and this October 12th, I’ll have 365 days–minus one, about mid-way through–sober. I am officially 180-some days sober today, so what’s next? And, the bigger picture is always, Why stay sober?

My biggest reason is that I’m finally over the obsessing. And, I have to say, it took me freaking long enough. Geez. Over a year, I’d say. I don’t want to go back there. I still have days when I want to drink, when I pout and blame sobriety for “taking me away from me,” for stealing my enthusiasm. However, I know, deep down, that these are just thoughts, irrational ones at best, and the real, true-me thoughts are soon to emerge. I’m curious to see what’s next?

Another thing, sobriety has forced me–is still often forcing me–to keep moving forward. Really, I have no other option! I can’t drink, so…I have to do. To act. Even if most of those actions have seemed to me to be miniscule, tiny, baby steps at best–at least I’m taking them and not falling backward. That is the main reason I’ve continued to not drink. I see myself moving forward, day by day. It’s a great feeling, and probably what constitutes most of what we see as “momentum” after the early days of cravings and the all-consuming thoughts of drinking and why we drank.

It’s also become a habit, to not drink, and I know that if I allow myself to go back to the “Oh, I can fix this with wine” mentality, it’s really hard to extract myself from that mud. It’s like mental quicksand, and it takes you down fast. I’ve experienced it, so my deal with myself is, When you get to place where you honestly believe that you can take it or leave it, only then can you drink. And, honestly, I’m not there yet. I don’t think I could just drink and not care, drink two or three (ooh, there’s a hangover already) and leave it. And, I’m not sure I’ll ever be there. That’s OK, though. I’ve accepted that, and I’ve accepted the patience that must counter the frustration of not knowing, and of not feeling settled with this “inability” to control things. It just IS for now, and that has to be OK, right?

Things are rolling forward. Whether or not you know or see it, you, too, are moving forward simply by the act of not drinking when you want to.

I’m curious. I want to see what it’s like out there, in Sobersville, at let’s say, a year. Will it really be all that different? I can say with certainty that things really changed about two months ago (14 months into it, almost 6 months sober time, for the second time). I suddenly stopped obsessing. The urge left me, I guess. I mean, I do still have cravings, but they’re always ushered out within a matter of seconds. I think, Ooh, a glass of… NOPE, no can do, DDG. There are the memories, the work I’ve put in, the stark futility of watching my friends stay stuck and drink to “ease their burdens,” and stay stuck and drink, and stay stuck and drink. Then, there are the hangovers. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, another hangover might kill me.

I am thankful for these rush of thoughts, but when I look more closely, I find a calm little clearing inside myself, which keeps growing with each passing sober day, and which I do not want disturbed. I worked really hard to clear this sunny, isolated patch, you know? I’m too tired to even consider letting it grow over, or worse, abandoning it for the noisy lake down the hill where all the drunken teenagers are hanging out, talking shit and staying stuck. Seriously, though, it’s where I’m resting, and frankly, I’d rather not revisit the decision as to whether or not to drink–and invite all that chaos back into my life–again. For now, this feels easier.

So, yeah. While I’m not thinking of drinking, I’m also not counting days anymore. But I think I should set a new goal, lest Wolfie-boy take note and perk his ears. What should it be? 365 sounds too long. Maybe an even 300?

And, here’s some excellent advice from Belle:

I got to 100 days then thought, ok 6 months. then once I got to six months I just sort of waited. and then once I was at 8.5 months I could see a year within reach, and then I just coasted to a year. momentum and fear of regret and just being generally pleased with life was enough for me. enough for me to want to see what happens next …

Going through the motions/new directions

25 Sep

8:27 pm

Yesterday and today, I basically took one big break from my freelance writing stuff to actually look for other work down here. And, I’m mostly OK with that. Yeah, I feel like I’ve given up too soon (and, I haven’t even given up, I’ve just decided to pursue a few new, non-writing-related things–oh, me), but if you don’t have the story ideas, or the editorial connections, or, worse, the ambition to go out and get both; then, you have to accept what is. Which is this, right here.

Don’t get me wrong: I am full, and glad, and relatively content. I have gotten through some things, over some major hurdles, professionally. Yet, if I had more drive, I could have done SO much more by now. I just could have. I haven’t, and it’s a daily struggle for me not to beat myself up, get down, or become anxious about “squandered opportunities,” blah blah blah. It’s a daily game I have to play, massaging my thoughts and redirecting them into a positive direction (look at what you HAVE gotten done, it’s going to take a LOT more work so just keep plugging, baby steps, one thing at a time, etc.).

I will bounce back, it’s just going to take some time. And more patience than I ever thought myself capable of, toward myself. What a novelty, having patience with myself! What a novelty, congratulating her for the little victories, even allowing her a treat after those seemingly-miniscule wins! (Yesterday’s was a big bowl of chocolate-covered pretzels, raisins, and walnuts–something I never allowed myself due to expense and well, fat content. Oh, me.)

So while yesterday was about (painfully) going through the motions, today was about new directions. Somehow I snapped out of my funk, mustered some old enthusiasm, and got out there. I went to a bakery (assistant), a hotel, a restaurant association (server), and a private school (substitute teacher/teaching assistant). We’ll see where I land. It’s different–MUCH different–from what I’m used to (white collar, information-age jobs), but c’est la vie, right? It also just makes me realize how few actual skills I have! Sure, I can surf the interwebs with the best of them and type 60 words per minute–and write about scientific research from the (dis)comfort of my office chair–but…what do I actually KNOW HOW TO DO? It’s a wake-up call, for sure.

I’m ambivalent, to say the least. Or, maybe just indifferent. At this point, I need to start making more money. Not to mention, I need a break from sitting in front of my monitor, spinning my wheels all day.

Today, I felt pretty good. Like, my old, confident self. On my walk tonight (I have cut out all running and any activity that will unnecessarily contract my butt and groin muscles, as part of the sciatica healing process–talk about patience…Grrrrr), I thought, and with some clarity: maybe this whole getting “sober” thing has been a huge mindfuck? I mean, sometimes I really do think that the sheer act of thinking about all this shit, of unnecessarily pathologizing my drinking problem, has caused me a whole lot of counterproductive navel-gazing and personal stalling. I can’t help but think, Enough already. So I drank. So I did stupid shit while drunk. Remind me again why I had to spend the past 16 months thinking about it all? Honestly, a part of me believes that it’s the pathologizing that sets us back. It’s made me feel broken, unable, incapable, weak. It made me doubt myself down to the very fiber of my being. Was that the intention? Did it have to be the case? Was it something that I did to myself, me alone? Or, is it normal when you quit drinking?

In any case, I’m kind of over this recovery shit. Sorry to say, but that’s the way I feel about it right now. Will I drink again? I don’t know. It’s a passing thought. I don’t have the urge, but a part of me continues to wonder: would I get some of that focus and fire and drive and passion back, if I did?

Like I said, just a passing thought–oops, there it goes. Buh-bye.

Happiness is a choice

24 Sep

10:47 am

Good morning. Or, is it?

I woke up to some fierce lower back pain and immediately took 4 Advil. It’s a bummer, knowing that at 39, all I can do is work with the pain and not–maybe never–remove it. It’s weird; I feel handicapped. It makes me sad, angry, and worn out. It is constant, and I feel like I’ve tried everything to fix it. I have, for the most part, given up.

And, this is all before I commence to sit right back down on my ass, spine crunching nerves, and get to work. THIS is what I do; I can’t seem to figure out another way.

Yet, the day is bright, and I have my plans, and I’m not thinking of drinking, and, well: happiness is a choice. I’m not sure why it’s a hard one to make sometimes, and why is should take effort (as in, maybe I’m doing it wrong), but, happiness is a constantly-being-made choice, isn’t it? Happiness is a choice. And, I can do this. If there is one thing I can do now, it’s this. I can usher the bad thoughts out, or sequester them, or filter them out gradually through some deep breaths. I’m still left with the pain, yes, but I can see my choice, facing me, and it is simple: happy or not?

I choose happy. But, mostly, I know now that I GET to choose. How black is that? (SNL reference!)

All quiet on the western (well, equatorial) front

19 Sep

10:54 pm

Whew. Busy week. We got back from our trip (we went to Disney World!), and I just spent the past few days working on two projects. Lo and behold, I submitted my first (well, except for that piece I wrote for The Fix, which sadly shut down) “serious” freelance piece!

She’s baaaaaack…!

It really did feel like getting back on the bike. You know, the one I crashed in a blackout and left on the side of the road a couple years ago. It was still there in the ditch, a bit rusty, waiting for me to hoist myself back into the seat. I’m surprised I found it; then again, I’ve learned to start giving myself more credit. (At the very least, I did what I set out to do, and I can “officially” call myself a freelance journalist.)

And, my 180 days came and went. I barely noticed it, to be honest. There was NO WAY I was giving myself the option of getting drunk within a thousand miles of my boyfriend’s parents. And, truth be told, these days I’m not thinking of “when can I drink again” without having an entire ARMY of thoughts rationalizing myself out of it.

180 days. I’m still here. I’m still not drinking. I’m still not really having the time to revisit what has become, in my mind, much more of a practical necessity than some profound lifestyle choice.

Or is it? Profound, that is?

Things are normalizing. Which, I guess, is why the “profundity” of the sober lifestyle is being lost a little bit on me. Like, I find myself getting annoyed whenever I think or talk or read or write about not drinking. Am I still sick, or can I believe that I’m healed? I feel like things are getting back to normal. I really feel it to be true. The “normal” before I got sucked into the drinking vortex–the obsession, then the need to drink in order to get excited about doing just about anything.

Yes, being sober is GOOD, but, well, good like a grilled cheese sandwich is good on any continent and in any language. What I’m saying is, I remember not drinking as being normal, and this, this sober thing is simply the new normal. Not profound, not really a big deal. Just my new normal.

A hard-won new normal, that is.

I’ve already told you that I believe “alcoholism” is a mental *disorder*–this implies, of course, that I also believe that I can take away the “dis” and be left with the “order”. In the real world, I’m not so sure how this will pan out. I feel like I could drink and not go overboard, but…feelings aren’t facts! I sort of believe that I could probably stop after two glasses, but I’m definitely not sure I would want to. Would I throw caution to the wind and get shitfaced, with all the resulting drama that comes with blacking out? Or, would I be able to “control” that urge? Or, would that urge simply not be there, and I’d realize after two glasses that I’m drunk and I “should” stop?

Technically speaking, I could drink. I have my own permission, in a sense. I made it to 180 days, which was my goal. Healed or no, I can technically drink. The past few times when I actually had a craving–and, let me say, I never imagined that they would subside to almost nothing, but my cravings pretty much don’t exist the way they used to–I dismissed it. I thought, Eh, I don’t want to feel drunk. I don’t want to feel that wave of acid rush down my stomach. I don’t really have a reason to drink–I don’t need to drink, so why bother? I’m happy without the booze, how would it make things better? Like, I actually THOUGHT THESE THINGS.

Granted, I’ve been at this for a little over 15 months. Still, it’s almost like I don’t have the energy to drink. Or, I don’t want to blow it, and I could, I guess, if I drank. Even if I didn’t get that drunk, it might put me back a day, or two; or, I’d feel guilty, or like I’d lost momentum/self-reliance. Sobriety guarantees certain outcomes, like, waking up and being able to try to get work done/get work done. I’m making incremental steps forward in the freelancing, and this is good. I wish I was doing more, and going faster, but lately I’ve realized that for whatever reason, I have to take things slow. And that includes work. Baby steps, and don’t overdo it, and turn it off at a certain hour–these, along with not drinking, are my new normal.

I also am beginning to enjoy working to live instead of living to work. On the other hand, my energy is coming back, SLOWLY but surely, and I’m actually looking forward to getting out more, picking up some part-time volunteer work, trying (at least one) new things that don’t involve what I’ve always done (intellectual reading/writing-oriented work). These are my goals, specific to me and my own personal neuroses. Just like my drinking “triggers” are specific to me. It’s dawned on me once again just how personal a sober journey can be.

I know that most people outside of this sobersphere (and AA) simply don’t GET the significance of getting sober. Of choosing a sober lifestyle. And, eventually, I might forget why I’m doing this. Every day so far since I quit, though, I wake up and look at my life through my sober glasses–maybe I’m not doing this or that because I got sober, but I’m definitely doing it with more purpose and more gratitude. So, we cling to it, this sober lifestyle choice, and celebrate it, and throw unicorn parades with our glitter balls and sober cars. Because it works!

It’s working! Something has clicked, has shifted. Maybe it’s simply the cravings fucking-finally-god-DAMN-it subsiding, maybe it’s me becoming my “old” self, maybe it’s me accepting my “new” self? Whatever it is, it’s working!

And that, my friends, is why it’s all quiet on the equatorial front.

I can imagine myself setting a new goal, another 180 days–we’ll see. I’m not thinking about drinking, things are quiet, and I have a lot of work to do. If the next six months are like the past six months, they’re going to blaze by, me in the saddle trying to hold onto my to-do list as the wind rips it to shreds!

180 days: check

15 Sep

12:16 am

Well, folks, I made it. 180 days as of yesterday (September 14th), which was about 16 minutes ago. And, you know what? I didn’t even think about it or remember what day it was until I was well into my shower this morning (which happened early because, you got it, I didn’t drink last night and I wasn’t hung over!)!

I am good and fine and thinking about so much besides drinking, or not drinking. My boyfriend and I are in Florida, and we just spent the past three days hitting Disney World and visiting his parents. Tomorrow will be another EASY SOBER DAY with thoughts of, well, things that come naturally and freely to think about that do not involve an ounce of obsessing over wine.

YES, at one point I thought, Ooh, it’d be nice to have a glass of red right about now, when my boyfriend’s mother offered me one and then fixed one for herself–it’s the first time I’m meeting them, actually–but, it came and went and the evening continued on. All I could think was how calm I felt, how different I feel–I mean, really, I feel like I don’t even know that crazy drunk girl that I used to be–how normal it seems to just take events as they come and deal with the irritations, the laughter, the everything sober. There’s so much more out there. Oh, right, that’s called Life. Why, hello there, I remember you!

On that note, I’m going to hit the sack. I can’t wait to share more insights when I get back (Tuesday).

Thank you, friends, for being there every step of the way.

A bug in my eye

8 Sep

11:55 pm

So, I realize I haven’t written for a while, and mainly it’s because I’ve been progressing through that “confusion”, aka, Life, I was talking about in my last post. I guess, looking back on the week, there’ve been ups, and downs, but overall, I’ve realized that it’s truly all small stuff, you know? Maybe if I had a full-time job in a big city, I’d see everything that creates stress or concern as “important?” Nah, I don’t think so. Nothing seems that important anymore! Maybe I’m just getting old, approaching that “don’t give a shit” age? No, I don’t think that’s it.

I think it’s getting sober that’s changing me. I’m beginning to see that I can work through things, even if they’re hard. And, I’m beginning to understand that I create the reality I live in. I can make it good, or I can make it bad. I can let it go, or I can hold onto it. Right now, I’m losing the desire to hold on because I see that it’s not a choice I have to make. I can make the other one, and it’s better for me. It’s one thing, for us “users of alcohol as a means to escape,” to understand this concept intellectually; it’s another to practice it and witness how hard it is, to go against our grain and do things differently than we’re used to (like, not arguing pointlessly with someone when we want to, or not getting nervous/anxious when we did before).

I’ve also come to see just how–and I don’t want to sound ungrateful, or like I’m thinking of drinking again–“over-concerned/uber-focused” I’ve been with and about my sobriety. I think it’s time to stop dwelling, to put on my big-girl pants and get on with things. Time to let go of the reins, to redirect my focus to like, anything BUT not drinking.

What are some of the small stuff that happened this week? I had a little “sober tantrum” last night, which is one of those seemingly instantaneous woe-is-me shifts-in-focus that just comes out of nowhere. Like, you’re riding along, you got this sober thing so handled, and then, BAM! EVERYTHING SUCKS IN THIS WORLD AND I WANT TO DRINK. Like, at 11:55 pm on your way home after a great day of cleaning, of not working, of seeing a cool play–BAM! It’s all collapsing in on me, I might as well suffocate myself with my own big frontal cortex, everything is bad and it’s because I can’t drink, I can’t drink, I can’t drink. Waaaaaaaah!

I got a bug in my eye on Thursday night, during the two hours of 96 percent humidity between the sheets of rain that fell for three days straight (hello, tropical storm). Like, a literal bug from a swarm that I must’ve run through while jogging. My left eye swelled up, got bloodshot, and teared with actual pus for about 72 hours. I cried a little, and then was like, OMG, you’re so ridiculous, Drunky Drunk Girl, retied my laces, and ran a mile until I had to pack it up because a park ranger yelled at me (Do you see what that sign says? Actually, I couldn’t, because my eye was swelling shut. Anyway, it was 6:30 and the sign said “Park closes at 5.” Um, yes, but why are you closing the gate at 6:30 when the sign says it closes at 5? I think he was too distracted by my grotesque left orb to notice the irony.).

And, yeah, my sciatica has been flaring incessantly, and this time, it’s on the right side. While it’s reduced me to long sessions of floor exercises and utterly bizarre self-massage techniques–I know it’ll eventually subside. It always does.

We cleaned the house and realized that the War Against Fur cannot be won; my tomato plants are towering over five feet; we’re set to take off on Wednesday for a five-day trip to the States.

I don’t know, I just lived, and did, and sometimes I felt like I was just doing it out of “I have to” and other times I realized just how much I have and that I get to choose how I perceive my world, as either a challenge or a chore. I’ve think I’m embracing more that I have to move on with life, and the ups and downs are always going to be a part of it.

Anyway, one more week until I hit 180 days! And, you know what? I’ve already started making a list of reasons NOT to drink. I mean, why fix what’s not broken? Drinking wouldn’t add much, except Bad Things. A part of me wants to drink again, but it’s a small part. The bigger part says, get your story done, and pitch another one, *before* you drink and mess something up. It says, obviously, if you start drinking, you’re not going to be able to write that book (in your mind, that is), or make some other professional choices–it’s either drink or have some sort of modicum of professional success, and I’m not being overly dramatic. I can’t imagine going to work anymore hung over. Why don’t you wait it out, get it all set *before* you drink and mess something up?

The thing is, I’m not sure I won’t “mess shit up” if I drink again–whether that’s one glass or ten, one time or 20. It just seems to be a whole lot easier to keep doing what I’ve been doing, to not throw the possibility of drinking into the mix; to put off making that HUGE choice as to whether or when or why I want to start treating myself like a bag of shit again, you know? 😉

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