Archive | December, 2013

Just say YES

31 Dec

5:08 pm

Just say yes.

That’s my “theme” for 2014. Well, that seems to be what it’s going toward–and, it just came to me against my will, so, hell, why not? Just say yes.

After some tough face-to-face realizations over Christmas–some of which made me feel uncomfortable for reasons beyond which I could elucidate–I’ve come to see what about getting sober has become counterproductive, for me anyway.

Here’s what: I feel like since getting sober, I’ve reined myself in so tight, closed my boundaries so much, that I have a hard time anymore saying yes. Stopping thinking and just doing. Opening myself up. Loosening those boundaries.

I’ve come to see that when we first get sober, it’s all about saying no. And necessarily so: No, I can’t drink. No, I can’t drink. No, I can’t drink. No, I can’t do this, that, or the other–because it might make me want to drink again, or, it MADE me want to drink again. No, I can’t go there, or see him, or talk to those people. No, I better not take that job, or run that race, or tax myself in any way beyond what I believe myself–weak and vulnerable, because this quitting drinking shit is fucking hard–to be capable. I better just stay here, small, enclosed, tight. Saying no. All the time.

To the point where you don’t realize just how much you’re over-thinking things and as a consequence, limiting yourself. I don’t think I’ve ever been as up in my head as I have been getting sober, wondering about every choice, overanalyzing every step I take. It’s as if getting sober has resulted in a spotlight on my forehead, a strobe going ’round and ’round and ’round, illuminating every thought, action, and reaction. I don’t just go or be or do anymore; life has come to carry so much WEIGHT.

Now, everyone’s journey is different. My “bottom” was low–it was the end of the business-as-usual way that I drank–so, I don’t think I can refuse the sober momentum that is building inside me. A certain order has been cast on my innards, almost as if the moral code of my Universe has melted and re-solidified as something else. So, I’ll keep going with what’s been working–moving toward “yes,” is how it feels. I can’t go back, and that’s OK, I guess.

However, I wasn’t necessarily using wine to get out of bed, or, to basically live. I lived my life, and my life was working in spite of my hangovers and stupid drunken shenanigans. My relationships suffered, yes, and my job, too. I had the distinct sense, though, that I wasn’t “not doing,” you know?

Sobriety seems to have made me less willing to do stuff–in order to protect myself from myself, I guess. And, I think, taking a step back/a time-out is necessary to heal. It was for me. Now, though, I feel like it’s time to move forward. It’s time to stop “being in recovery” and start “being recovered.” Time to say, well, yes. Yes, I can probably do this sober; yes, I’m ready to…just say yes.

Say yes to a new job search.
Say yes to a move.
Say yes to having kids–or yes to trying.
Say yes to saying NO to the guilt of not having kids–or the guilt of an abortion.
Say yes to saying NO to a career in journalism, if that’s what I truly want.
Say yes to a new career outside of my head, maybe yes to school for this new career.
Say yes to exploring different healing methodologies for my back pain–maybe even the Western ones.
Say yes to trips.
Say yes to exploring my sexuality further.
Say yes to saying NO to thinking about how things relate to my sobriety or not–chances are, they do, but who cares? Enough is enough–say yes to this.
Say yes to getting my energy up every day, and being more of a firecracker and less of deadbeat–even if my neurotic mind says no because I’m afraid of threatening or alienating others who are less energetic.
Say yes to saying NO to Facebook!
Say yes to the people around me, and yes to not trivializing them by wondering what people in my computer are doing.
Say yes to saying no to comparing myself to others–and that includes knowing what everyone is doing all the time in favor of what I’m doing!
Say yes to what I’m doing as being good enough, engaging enough, valuable enough.

You get the point.

I don’t know, just say yes. What’s the worst that could happen? I could be afraid of the outcome; I could pretend there is no outcome, or that it doesn’t matter; I could pretend there is no fear in me. Or, if I can’t ignore the fear, the projections into some nonexistent future, I can say yes anyway.

Just say yes.

Am I a lurker in my sober life?

27 Dec

11:34 pm

What a week, eh? Ah, holidays. Ugh. Even with my 280-some days, I had MAJOR pangs, which was quite unexpected! Again, not necessarily pangs to drink, but pangs to avoid what I really didn’t want to feel, or acknowledge, or confront.

So, quickly, let me set the stage. My boyfriend and I went away for a few nights, and all in all, we had a great time. We’d been to where we went before, and so there was a level of familiarity–and nostalgia–to the place. Which played against me this time, as you’ll see. On Christmas Eve, he sprung something on me that I wasn’t comfortable doing–honestly, I’m not sure I would’ve been comfortable doing it drunk, let alone sober. However, while other people do everything sober and don’t think twice; not me, so cue the whirlwind of “should I/shouldn’t I” thoughts!

I was also feeling surprisingly lonely. I mean, lonely for family in the sense of connection, of belonging, of “protocol.” You know, how it’s nice to sit around once in a while with your big, dysfunctional family because, well, it makes you feel like you’re part of something larger than yourself? That there’s SOME sort of order to the Universe? Now, I’ve been “un”-celebrating holidays for a long time, spending many of them alone, or doing random things around the world, literally–it’s not like I’m all that big into Christianity OR family. Why the HELL I found myself wearing shades en route to the airport, having a hard time holding the tears back, I really don’t understand. I think it was the combination of feeling a sense of loss–my old self, my old way of doing things, the old me who could party and be independent–and a sense of finality–how much I’ve gained, how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown.

It was in this state of mind that my boyfriend sprang “the thing” on me. I sort of moped my way through dinner, feeling inadequate in a way because I couldn’t (wouldn’t) do something just because it would have been easier to do with a “glass” of wine to take the edge off. And then, we went to a salsa club. Neither of us danced, and it was the worst feeling in the world–because I’ve been the one to Not Dance out of feeling awkward and like everyone is staring at me SO MANY TIMES. And, it brings up the worst sort of paranoia in me: that I’m unable to enjoy the way others do, that I’m unable–worse, unwilling–to have fun, to let go, to just be. That I can’t do so many things (that make me feel unsafe and self-conscious) without wine.

And, then, I said, Let’s wander around the bar. And my boyfriend was like, And, do what? If you want to be part of something, go and do it, but stop making not being able to drink an excuse for not having the guts to do it. (I’m paraphrasing.)

Hmm.

Am I, in fact, a lurker in my own life? Have I always been? Duh. YES. I mean, when I was drinking, I was alone and desperate for connection, but I was afraid to go out and get it. I’d watch other people, looking for clues as to how to have a life. How to LIVE a life. Ten years ago, I started to walk around the city I lived in at night, looking into lit-up living rooms, craning my neck to gaze deeper, feeling the chill in the air outside even more strongly because the inside looked so warm. I’d DRIVE the fuck around after midnight, passing clubs and bars that I used to frequent, hoping to find…something I had lost, I guess. I never went into those clubs or bars; I was alone, after all, and way too scared. But, I wanted to know that nothing was going on without me. That I hadn’t really lost anything. Or that, I wasn’t missing out on all that much.

Nothing has really changed, it seems, with me getting sober. For years, I drank and drank and drank, and that gave me the courage–or alternately, the excuse to pass on events–to go to things, bars, events, dates, to initiate conversations, to maintain relationships. I had to drink to do it, I was way too scared to do any of it sober. It wasn’t that I was always drunk, but, toward the end everything and everyone in my life involved wine.

It’s been a struggle, and I’ve been trying to be patient with myself. These days, it’s not that I can’t do it, it’s more that I don’t want to. I gave myself a pass for these past 18 months, but more and more, I’m finding myself craving connection. And I see that my “pass” has become an excuse to lurk, to hide out, to avoid contact, to basically give myself the excuse to not do things, socially and professionally.

And, I can’t come up with one thing other than that horrible four-letter word: fear.

I used to pride myself on being the one who was up for anything, on being fearless, on making shit happen. Maybe that was just another story I told myself, because I’ve always hated dancing in front of strangers, for instance, unless I’m drunk. I’ve had an infinite number of conversations with people in my lifetime, at bars, in cities, in colleges and travels, under blankets and in between sheets; but once I got sober, I didn’t want to anymore. I simply didn’t have it in me anymore. I chalked that up to needing to conserve my energy, to finally focusing on me, to being able to at last say, Fuck it, to the shit that I just didn’t want to do–since that “shit” was making me drink.

I keep telling myself that when the time is right, I’ll get back to doing what I used to do–all of which was WAY easier because I was fueled by “liquid courage.” Won’t I? Or, do I need to push myself?

Have I been hiding myself away from life? I think the answer is yes. It’s a very difficult truth to embrace, but…I think it’s time to cut the cord, dive in, jump off.

It sucked balls to have to confront, on Christmas Eve no less, some of the things that have been fucking STARING me in the face before, during, and now, after getting sober. That while I needed to stash myself away for a while and avoid the “real world” of socializing–meeting people, making friends, forming authentic relationships–I need something else now. Something like friends. Girlfriends. Warmth through conversation. A sense of belonging, even community, with others. What irks me the most is that I know this has always been a sore point with me, and I’ve always been afraid of it. It’s why I drank, to avoid having to do what makes me feel uncomfortable–fearful, basically. To put myself out there, for me, is to confront and embrace human interaction.

I’m glad I didn’t drink on Christmas Eve; even now, I see that it would’ve made things easier, and probably more fun. However, in exchange, I got to confront myself and get a little bit closer to my truth, to the real story, as it were.

On that note, I’ve got a cold, so it’s off to bed (at least it’s a “legitimate” excuse to stay home!).

I’m the one in control–weird

18 Dec

11:26 am

Last night, I went to our annual (well, two years and counting) Christmas party thrown by our “rich” friend–needless to say, there were lots of corks popping.

Firstly, I brought chilled sorrel tea, and it was my lifesaver! (I also had my boyfriend, who doesn’t drink; he smokes weed, but that’s not a big deal to me unless it becomes the focus of the event, which it wasn’t last night.) If anyone has ever tried sorrel tea, it looks just like wine or a mixed drink AND, it’s quite thirst-quenching–I didn’t miss a belly-full of wine, in other words. And, it gave me the opportunity to observe, pretending I was “one of them” without actually being one of them.

Everyone was drinking, of course. “Being festive,” but really, this is a drinking crowd, so the “festive” was more like “pretty damn drunk” for some. No one did or said anything wrong; in fact, everyone was a good drunk. However, I did get to watch it unfold as it usually does: first, you’re chatting, being polite and civil and a little tipsy; then comes what I like to call the shit-talk and secret drinking games. Like, well, talking shit and doing what appears to the sober folks in the room be strange things: having long, whispered conversations about nothing, or topics you’ll regret the next day; two people suddenly racing up the stairs, only to disappear for a half hour and then, tumble back into the room, flushed, giddy. Hilarious, right? So much fun, right?

Right. The biggest thing I noticed–and, it’s not the first time, which is why I’m blogging about it–is just how out of control drinking makes you. How vulnerable. I mean, obviously, I KNOW THIS, from my years of putting myself in ridiculous situations–jail and car crashes and blackout sex are an alcoholic’s version of vulnerable, but there is a gradient, and you become part of it even if you’re a “social drinker.”

Vulnerable in that, you have conversations where you talk too much or say things too loud, for the most part; I don’t have to mention sitting on laps and flirting with people in front of friends. Now, I come from years upon years of overexposing myself emotionally and physically while getting shitfaced; I’ve had enough, and so I LIKE being tight-lipped, controlled, only allowing you to see exactly what I want. Doesn’t mean I’m not aware of this or a dry drunk; it means I like being the one in control, the observer, able to go home knowing exactly what I said and did.

My main question right now is, why on earth would someone make themselves so vulnerable by drinking too much? All you do is make yourself vulnerable–to talking shit, to having conversations that you might regret the next day, wondering what you said because you don’t remember it and then feeling scared and frenetic because you’re not sure what you said and you’re not sure how drunk the other person was and if they’re going to think you’re a complete dumb-ass for rambling and over-sharing. Not to mention, all the other terribly-exposing shit that comes with drinking–flirting uncontrollably, showing too much interest or maybe interest that you’re not ready to share with your friends; telling people about your abusive childhood; revealing just how bitchy you are, or how insecure you are, or how generous and happy of a wobbly drunk you are.

Why would you do this to yourself? At the end of the day, no matter how alone I feel sometimes in sobriety, last night taught me that I SO prefer to feel a little bit on the “outside” than be exposing myself and making myself vulnerable in exchange for being part of the “secret club”–which is what happens between drinks, not because of them.

I’m feeling a bit grumpy lately, mainly because of this freelance life I live, but I’ll move past it and keep working. I have 275 days today–goal is 300, so I’m almost there! My “alcohol-free” beer experience the other day made me go, Hmmmmm: not only did I see that drinking might simply not do it for me anymore, but, it also sparked a curiosity about wine. Maybe just one glass?

I’ll put it on the back burner–no, back in the package in the freezer–for now, where it belongs. I’ve got work and holidays and shit to do, no time for thinking about stupid drinking!

Once an Addict, Not Always an Addict

11 Dec

10:38 am

Hey, guys, here’s another Sober Living essay I wrote for The Fix magazine–they just relaunched and are now based in LA (instead of NYC).

If there is ONE thing I’ll take away from my sober journey, it’s: listen to your heart, and let your intuition guide your choices. Everyone is different in their addiction, and everyone is different in their getting sober. Addicition is NOT a one-size-fits-all model.

I got drunk last night…on .5% “non-alcoholic” beer!

10 Dec

11:32 am

And I learned SO much! Mainly that, everything I’ve been telling myself about relapse is off-base…when I consider MY physiology. No, drinking again will not necessarily trigger a physical craving, or even a mental one, like before. No, drinking again is not necessarily something I want to do, or will do, anymore to ease my pain or numb my fear. HOLY FUCK. All these stories I’ve assumed and acquired about “this disease” are not necessarily true–for me.

I’m going to be brief, but basically, I accidentally drank what I thought was a non-alcoholic beer last night, and it turned out that it actually had .5% alcohol. And, boy, did I feel it!

After the first half, I felt bad–decidedly unpleasant. Slightly anxious–what’s this unfamiliar feeling going to do to me?–and like my brain was coming unglued–imagine clasping your hands together and pulling them apart. By the end of the beer, I felt fuzzy-headed and a little careless (numb), but that was about it. No real buzz.

The best part? I had ZERO desire for more. I mean, I neither wanted a stronger buzz nor wanted it to go on. I was waiting to come down, if you can believe it! I could liken it to having just taken a shower; I felt clean and cool, why would I take another one? Or, just having eaten a nice dessert; I felt sated, why would I eat more? I had no compulsion–no obsessing, no real feeling at all besides, oh, this is an interesting feeling and it will be over soon, and I’m OK with that. Next?

I have no regrets. No, I didn’t “fall off the wagon;” no, I didn’t “slip.” I MADE PROGRESS. I mean, I feel like this was my own version of harm reduction–and while I’ve wondered about harm reduction techniques as being possibly painful, the overriding feeling I had after this experience was that of freedom. I felt free. I got my fix, I satisfied my curiosity, which, I’ll admit, had been eating away at me for the past 265 days.

Yeah, I felt free. But then, I was like, Oh, FUCK, now what? If I don’t have alcohol, what will be my fix NOW? All this time, I’ve been sort of harboring romantic visions of me drinking wine in moderation “when I’m fully healed.” I never in a million years imagined that I wouldn’t want to!

My life doesn’t have to center around alcohol anymore

5 Dec

11:17 am

Lots of folks–LOTS–talk about booze-ism as a perpetual disease. What, is it like a flower that comes up every spring that you planted 10 years ago?

The BEST part about this journey, for me, has been seeing my mind heal. Witnessing the change. My actions are different, my reactions are different. WAY different. WAY better. And, maybe even back to normal.

By normal I mean, well, what do I mean? I can see now that I wasn’t “normal” back in let’s say, 2007. I know I’m a better version of myself. However, there was a sanity to my drinking, a certain “normalcy” to it before my several-years’ descent into out-of-control drinking. I’m not saying I could, or would want to, drink again, but…isn’t that the fucking point? You learn from your mistakes; now you can move on. You tried bungee jumping and decided it gave you whiplash and almost killed you. While you could do it again, you’d prefer not to, right? Same with a lot of things in my life: psychologically abusive boyfriends, poor academic choices (the expensive school over the cheaper one), “mom” jeans.

I don’t want to trivialize people’s experiences, but, they are just that.

At this point, I might choose NOT to drink even if I could, it’s that unappealing. (Well, I also know that I couldn’t “take it or leave it”–that I probably wouldn’t want to have “just one.”) I mean, there’s the short-lived buzz, but if the rest is boring or bullshit, why bother? Honestly, I’d rather not get high in order to avoid the low.

And, this is not rocket science. This is not big recovery stuff. This is not ME having a unicorns-shitting-glitter revelation. This is what most people have experienced, whether “addict” or not–some, it only took one try, others, it took a lifetime of tries.

Granted, I think addicts might feel a “higher” high than non-addicts. I don’t believe that my buzz from wine was significantly, qualitatively better than that of the annoying simpleton sitting next to me who had every hair in place, but I do assume that the relief it provided was something she had never–could never–imagine.

Anyway, what I’m saying is, you can stop dwelling on your sobriety long enough to look around to appreciate that alcohol has lost its hold on you. Sometimes, I do have the desire to drink, but it is a reaction, similar to other feelings and thoughts that would not be a good idea to react to. Drinking was a way to solve our problems, but it was a bad one. Now we are solving our problems in GOOD ways. Why? Because we know better. Consider your booze-ism as the school of hard knocks–we really did learn the hard way. But, now we know better, and we do better.

Why can’t that be enough? For recovery, I mean? I’m not saying I’m going to drink in moderation tomorrow, but I feel…healed, to a large extent. I feel better. I feel…normal, even? Maybe I hit a high bottom (maybe not); it doesn’t matter. The only thing that ever mattered to me was the fact that one, I drank alcoholically, and two, I could heal from this skewed mental state.

These days, about 18 months into sobriety, I don’t walk around constantly examining the horrible things I did, the anniversary of such and such drama. Why? Because everyone’s got a past, this is mine, moving on. These days, I walk around thinking of things worth thinking about, like friends, work, the trees, the ocean, whether or not I’m going to have kids, why that even matters. My life does not center around booze anymore. Most importantly, my life doesn’t HAVE to center around alcohol anymore, whether I’m sober or drinking.

I’m going to say this, and it might not be cool: I feel like there is such a culture of self-indulgence surrounding both drinking and getting sober. (And, for drinking, I might even substitute “using,” in general). In recovery, they hammer in the “it’s not all about you!” thing so hard, but yet…the entire recovery process IS all about you–catering to the addict’s well-being, finding the best medication to reduce the amount of pain the addict is in and the long-term cravings the addict will feel, delving into all the messed up shit that the addict went through in her life that caused her so much pain she had to use. I mean, even I saw the truth of the matter when I was binging on two bottles of wine a night: I did it because I could AFFORD to. I had the money, I had the time, and I had all the safety nets that our society provides. I was willing to spend my emotional energy, and to take physical and psychological risks. I could afford to, one way or the other.

I know there are addicts everywhere, and we share one thing in common: the urge to use to fix a pain. Addicts use as solution, even IF they think they’re just getting high. Why is it that AA works so well? It teaches you how to deal with the perceived pain of living, whether that pain comes in the form of egomania or other people’s bullshit. It seems that everyone, even the folks who say they drank for fun or “just because,” benefits from this program in that it works by giving you tools to both recognize the pain and then, transmute it into SOMETHING ELSE. That something else is life, silver not gold.

Take away the pain, and everyone can heal. Everyone can heal. And, an alcoholic past can be like a bad memory, or a faded photograph–not something you need to hold on to in order to stay sober, in order to not want to drink. I would say, hold on to the present, the desire to seek out productive solutions to this thing called life, not counterproductive ones. It becomes that simple, it really, really does. Everyone can heal. EVERYONE CAN HEAL!

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