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Are you afraid to leave the place where you got sober?

12 Dec

1:15 pm

I’ve been wondering this lately, in a tangential sort of way.  Like, I think about other stuff, and my thoughts end up at this question.  Usually I’m thinking about how I feel bored with sobriety, in a general sense.  Like, it’s just not pink clouds anymore, ever.  *I’m* no longer a pink cloud–and I wonder, where have I gone?  Sometimes, I do long for the “old” “just getting sober” me.  The truth is, not only is being sober no longer enough, but I expect a lot LOT more from myself now.  So, it all just feels like work–normal life, I guess.

I miss walking the hills, passing the tropical flowering brush, feeling literally buzzed by the fact that I am sober, that I get this–this life.  These days, I still do very much appreciate all of it–maybe more so now, more fully–but I don’t feel that same rush of getting sober and all the feeling of newness and accomplishment and being newly, well, in love with myself again.  I just feel…bored.  Been here, done this.  Time to move on.

And, move on, I have.  I did.  I went to the west coast last year, for oh, 8 months, and worked a “big girl” job again.  (which, as you can probably guess, was pretty easy, and pretty low-key compared to freelancing)  And, I survived everything I was afraid of, namely, will I not only be able to stay sober in a new place, in a new job, in a new lifestyle, but will I thrive?

I have to say, I guess I did both survive and thrive, even though I felt depressed most of the time.  When I got home, I felt changed, much stronger, much more confident, able to interact with the “real world”–things that never would have been nurtured if I had stayed here, in my old, pink-cloud life.  SO, that was good.  And, it’s had me wondering ever since, how many people don’t leave where they got sober because they’re afraid they’ll lost their sobriety in exchange for possible big personal growth?

Are you afraid that leaving the sober life, patterns, and habits that you’ve developed where you are will put you at risk for relapse?  Do you want to leave, but fear you can’t because you’re not sure how or if you can establish similar new, healthy coping skills somewhere else?  I think I know quite a few people down here who stay for YEARS…and I wonder if it’s for that very reason.

I wasn’t particularly worried about relapsing when I went away, but I did fear that I would be more stressed, and more triggered, and have more cravings.  I did at first, but I was NEVER, EVER at risk of a relapse.  (And, these days,  I don’t think I would even choose to spend money, drink liquid sugar, and feel like total ass the next day, if given the no-strings choice.)  In fact, after the initial freakout (yup, there was one night–week, let’s say), things went back to where they were before I got sober, which is to say, I’m good at work.  I always have been really (pathologically) good at doing well at work while living a (secretly) disastrous personal life.

Still, I had quite a bit of apprehension.  I’m glad I got over it because I came back feeling very much motivated, strong, and confident.  Not that I feel that way every day these days (I’ve been home for 8 months), but more or less, I really do.  And, I wonder, how would it be if I lived out my fear, and stayed “stuck” here–I’m trying not to judge the folks here who have gotten sober and decided to just go with what works, mind you.  For me–and we all know who I am–I have to experiment, and cannot live in fear, as fear is my biggest trigger to use, whether emotionally or actually physically.  And, that leads me to ask another, even more general question about long-term sobriety:  how much fear is acceptable to live with and in, in exchange for security in your sobriety?  Do you–should you–work through your fears, all of them, gradually as the years wear on?

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Do you still miss drinking?

21 May

10:16 am

Well, that’s a question, isn’t it?  My boyfriend and I were driving to the beach the other day, or back from some boat trip, and he was like, Do you ever miss drinking, or still want to drink?  Or, do you just not talk (complain) about it anymore?

Hmm.  I really had to think about it.  I’ve been thinking about drinking, and sobriety, but I just haven’t been coalescing those thoughts into posts.  And, as you guys know, it’s partly because life has gotten busy, work-wise.  I’m still working remotely for the company I was at, and I’m also working three to four days a week at the same local coffee shop.  And, frankly, it’s still not enough money, considering my ever-present student loan debt, future goals and dreams, and well, life is expensive.  But, it’s comforting to know that I do have spending money (the lattes money), and I don’t feel “guilty” buying trips, new shoes, and expensive food items once in a while.  As Peter Tosh sang, most of us are livin’ small.

The other reason I haven’t been blogging is this irritant factor.  It’s like, I’d rather just not think about not drinking anymore.  But, I DO think about it, all the time.  It’s just changing.  It’s weird.  While I miss getting sober–there is definitely a “high” to achieving and sustaining a longish-term sobriety, and I’d say that lasts up to years–I do have to accept that I’m beyond that.  The pink cloud still rests above my head, it’s just sort of faded.

I mean, yes, when I see people come into the coffee bar at 5:30 (my start time–ouch), STILL FLAMING DRUNK and having incoherent and emotional arguments with each other, I cringe inside; and then, I breathe a sigh of relief.  And that relief doesn’t ever go away; in fact, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.  I have to admit, in my darker hours, or my agro ones after the caffeine buzz wears off and I get “hangry,” a small part of me feels smug about it–just a little bit.  Mainly, though, this sense of relief, of being FAR, far away from the urge to binge drink/drink alcoholically–it’s a constant, gracious presence.  I feel gratitude all the time.  For not feeling the urge to drink, ever, really.  And for never, ever having to be hungover like that again.

What I don’t feel is the excitement in congratulating myself anymore.  And, I suppose that’s a good thing.  Life is just life, it doesn’t have to revolve around this idea of “me being or getting sober, or being pleased with me being or getting sober.”  You know?

However, then my boyfriend hits me with that question, and it stirs up the fact that I haven’t forgotten about my sobriety at all, and I have to say:  Yes.  Yes, I do still think about drinking.  Yes, I do still want to drink once in a while, when I encounter a very powerful (to me) trigger.  When?  Well, let’s just say, on a boat trip, when I feel jealous (ugh) of all the hot, young girls with their flat bellies (well, I never had a flat belly, even in my 20s).  On that same boat trip, toward the end, when my insecurity about being “old” has been sufficiently compounded by the sense that I’m not only “old,” I’m also boring–that’s when I really start to feel grumpy and want to drink.  I feel sorry for myself.  It’s residual though, like a long lost limb from a faraway ancestor–I can intellectualize it away, and realize that it’s just a feeling.  Still, I do feel tired of being the “narc.”  (In fact, at the last beach bar we stopped at on this “for example” boat trip, I ordered a virgin tropical drink, and the guy goes, “I die a little every time someone orders said tropical drink without the rum.”  And I look up, pissed, and I go, “Well, I die a little every time I drink rum.  So, what do ya got for me?”  He wasn’t displeased, but he was definitely taken aback.  He ended up adding coconut water, and let me tell you, it was pretty damn tasty!)

I have to stress, and this is most important as my sobriety lengthens:  it’s not that I want to get drunk.  It’s just that I want to…not be sober.  When I see a friend of mine, doing it up in the big city we used to live in together, drinking drinking drinking all over the place, every night; I feel…some sort of loss.  I know it comes back to this fear of missing out, or my OLD ideas and notions about how to “have fun” or “have a good life.”  My OLD ideas of me.

I don’t miss getting drunk.  What I, Drunky Drunk Girl, miss is the ability to instantly and effortlessly escape my seriousness.  The world.  Daily, “hum drum” life.  Some might call it a lack of free spiritedness, an “always in my head”-ness, a sobriety of thought, or, an overwhelming thoughtfulness.  Maybe it’s simply neuroticism:  the tendency to overthink negative (and positive?) thoughts.  Maybe I can call it depression, as this lingers.  I don’t know.  But, I do miss being able to “be that fun girl.”  Of course, I know I can be that fun girl in other ways, and that frankly, I WAS NEVER THAT FUN GIRL when I was drinking.  But, the constructs and stories we tell ourselves linger on and on into our sober years–and it really does take a constant checking in to right, correct, re-mold these ideas.  And, yeah, the peer pressure is always going to be there unless you check in and say, Fuck that, I rock.  SO MUCH HARDER NOW THAT I’M SOBER.

So, no, I never want to get drunk.  But, yes, I still do want to “not be me.”  Or, be that fun girl.  Or, escape from my sober life.  And, I guess that’s what we give up in exchange for constancy of mood, deep knowledge of self, and the GIFT of being able to look forward, with relatively laser focus, on our lives–and to make plans that suit us, lift us, and maximize our potential.  That is worth a thousand nights of drinking, and a million mornings of being hungover.

Mom, I’m bored!

2 Aug

8:33 am

Yes, it is 8:30 in the morning, and I’ve already been up for an hour.

Since I’ve gotten home, I’ve felt, I guess, somewhat manic–and for the most part, I’ve totally welcomed it! I don’t need a lot of sleep, but, I’m also more agitated than usual. I credit my volunteer trip as having “re-wired” me, but, is that all that’s going on?

As you can imagine, the mania/extra energy dissipates and by the afternoon, the agitation, brain fog, and general feeling of listlessness and/or hopelessness sets in. I think I just feel let down by the afternoon and evening–what the fuck have I done with my day?, I wonder, in spite of everything I’ve checked off my to-do list. Even though I have been “busting a move” on a lot of projects and items…I still feel, generally speaking, depressed in the afternoons. I think I always have, as long as I can remember being self-conscious enough to actually examine my life. The day is over, I mourn. And, while I know I am often too hard on myself, maybe I could be doing so much more?

Where art thou, dopamine?

I wonder about this “boredom” thing. WHAT IS IT? It’s not that I am bored, like, I-have-nothing-to-do-bored. Sometimes it’s that I have too many options, but they all take work. Usually, it’s a visceral agitation–my gut feels clenched and my head feels foggy. Like, EVERYTHING feels irritating, and even though I know I have to push through my cerebral work, it’s hard. So, I just get ‘er done. Go through the motions. Focus through the pain. It sometimes feels like my brain is broken, this brain fog stuff.

I want to fix it with wine. I have been REALLY wanting to drink since I got back, and I think it’s a combination of my “natural high” from the trip wearing off, and well, my “brain fog” days. Maybe I just have too much to do, too much catching up, and I feel like I want it all done, NOW (you know, without having to actually do it). Maybe I am bored, as in, what I’m doing has become somewhat…staid? I often want to say, Fuck it, and Good enough, to my writing; but, I just can’t do that. I can’t let it be bad. I have more stories and assignments than ever, and, even though my writing would not win any awards, I’m still plugging away. And that’s all I ask for! It’s just that sometimes, I really do have to go through the motions to get stuff written (reporting is fine, it’s the organizing and writing that hurts).

I wonder about boredom. Fear of working. Agitation. If your goal is simply to “get ‘er done,” are you really in the right profession? Some days I have no spark. I tried to quit Diet Coke, but honestly, I simply could not work without it yesterday. I had a horribly annoying morning at the “free clinic,” and then, I came home to have to push out a piece. It was like giving birth. I did it, of course I did it. But, after crashing out on the bed for about an hour, and then wandering around the apartment, feeling agitated and simply UNWILLING to make my brain work; I broke my measly ONE-DAY STREAK of no Diet Coke and downed like, two glasses. It helped. I “got into it” and finished my piece. Thank GOD, is all I could think.

I used caffeine a LOT in my 20s and early 30s, and this reminds me that I used it to actually be able to get hyped up enough to perform at what was then, something new to me: an office job, typically involving some sort of marketing communications-oriented stuff. I was a biology major, hello? I wasn’t used to talking to people during the day.

I used to use wine to fix this “boredom.” I know I can’t anymore. Mainly, it just doesn’t work. I mean, I have tried it while in this state of mind, and it actually makes my head feel worse. Still, the “but it’ll make you feel high, better, actually happy” rings so loudly that I can barely ignore it.

It’s interesting that only now am I seeing the simple fact that I used wine primarily as an antidepressant. Does that make me less of an “alcoholic?” No, probably not. But, it was rare that I truly sought out wine when I was feeling good. What is the point of drinking if you already feel good? I didn’t drink to get drunk; I drank to feel better. It just so happened that I also didn’t know how to make myself feel better on my own, or even more, PREVENT this slide into my depressed/agitated state.

I am learning, though. Simple things like, unless I need it to activate my brain to finish a story, caffeine is not good for me. I crash, and I crash hard. I have been getting up early, and that helps: I hate spending the hours of 10 – 12 checking email and Facebook; if that shit isn’t done by the start of my workday, which hopefully is before 9 these days, then I feel behind. And, that makes me feel scared. And, that makes me want to procrastinate, or avoid, feeling even worse.

I’m all over the place these days, but I can’t worry about that. The important thing right now is that I am getting my work done. Sorry, depression, but I’m going to have to give you a time-out. You sit over there for a while and Mommy will get her work done, mmkay?

The thing about self-employment (in the creative arts?) is that you can’t just show up. Showing up is meaningless. You have to produce. It doesn’t matter if it takes you two hours or ten, you have to deliver. And some days, it doesn’t come. And that is freaky. Scary. And those days, you worry about your income–bills, food, future bills and future food. You worry about your capability–am I a fraud? You feel the knot in your belly and you think, Fuck, just do it. So, you do, and you go through the motions, and you get ‘er done.

Through it all, I keep thinking, where/what is my reward? Sure, I earn money. That’s a big one. Sure, I move forward in my “career,” so that’s good, too. Lately, though, I want more. I want a “real” reward. I want to feel something else. I want a vacation from this sobriety bullshit! I get SO tired of feeling sober, you know?

I run through the tricks and offer myself alternatives. Take a run; if you don’t feel better, you can get that bottle; but if you do, then promise yourself you won’t (I always feel better). You know you’ll feel ten times worse tomorrow with God-knows-what-kind-of-hangover than you do now, so just push through. Embrace the pain and disappointment–what’s next? What about a trip? What about another coffee? (Actually, I’ve been trying to get away from any food-related rewards, but I’ll save that for another post.)

Sometimes I think I need to mess up my life. Like, I don’t ever let go anymore. I don’t go out, mainly because it’s not fun. It’s not fun to go out and be the sober narc; it’s not bad, but it’s not something I would choose to do over spending time alone, getting my shit done. And that’s the thing: who am I now? I used to be so much fun. I used to be a hot mess. I used to be curious, at the very least, to just have a random night out, exploring bars and just wasting time with my friends. I don’t have any friends, to be frank, let alone a group that I can let my hair down with and simply waste time. You know how much I learned by wasting time and being silly with my friends?

And honestly, I’ve been thinking this: is “the unexamined life” really not worth living? Or, is it the messy life that adds texture, not the one that has been examined to the point of sterility? That is how (my) life feels sometimes: overexamined and sterile. I feel like I need to make a mess!

On that note, I think I am going to stop. Sorry if this is a rambling whine-fest (wine-fest?). Happy Saturday to all!

(Btw, July 31st would have been 500 days, had I not drunk that beer six weeks ago–and wow, that was six weeks ago? I really have not even seriously considered drinking again since then, so that’s pretty great. And, my, how fast time passes!)

This, too, shall pass

11 May

1:04 pm

My mom used to and probably still does say this all the time. Such a simple expression, but in action, so majorly effective.

I had to withstand one of those bored-agitated moods last night, and I ended up relying on “this, too, shall pass.” It was the only tool I had left. That and, well, habit of not drinking, ever. Most of the time, I feel too much inertia to get up and go out for a bottle–can you believe that? Last night, I was all, This is too hard now, This isn’t worth it, Who’s going to know?, Who even cares?, What’s one glass?… Mostly, I notice myself gearing up for the wedding–the confrontation with you-know-who, the fact that this will be the first time my manz is meeting the family–and this causes anxiety. I can feel it, and it makes me uncomfortable and preoccupied, but…I know that it is NOT WORTH DRINKING OVER. Plus, I trust that I can muster the calm to endure it for the next two weeks.

Honestly, I’m just worried–I guess is the best word for how I’m feeling–about having to meet and greet and live through an entire weekend with the brother’s girlfriend. I mean, I don’t know what to expect, and I can’t plan for anything but how I will (hopefully) react, which is to do and say nothing. I don’t like not knowing; she’s a wild card. I guess this is a good lesson in letting go, and not trying to orchestrate the universe, and taking care of MY reaction to others and not the other way around. I am not in control of anything but my own insides, which is hard to accept.

On the other (better) hand, I’m not so far gone that I don’t realize that this weekend will be the only time I’ll get to see my family, en masse, for a long while; and, it will be a superb ceremony; and, it will go fast–so, enjoy, and don’t fret the small stuff. And she is frankly, VERY small stuff.

I know this, but I’m still anxious, friends! Arg. This, too, shall pass. (And, once it does, it’ll be pretty much the only other “loose end” to tie off from my drinking days, not counting the people who either have written me off or are hiding their hurt but would like to confront me on something I said or did. Sigh. I’ve tried making amends, and it was a disaster; so, I have to trust that whoever is engaging with me now is not doing so in a passive aggressive way. Btw, I have not been in touch with my brother, and can I tell you how GOOD it feels to not be engaging in/buying into a passive aggressive relationship with him? Very empowering, actually; and, a relief. Sorry to say, but sometimes you just have to let them go, them being even family members.)

Anyway, last night, this did pass. I told myself, Self, you KNOW that this agitated mood will not be around in a few hours, so just sit here, suck it up, and try to distract yourself. Almost like ignoring the pain of a headache (which, actually, I also had), or the twinge of a bad sunburn. Why is it so hard to convince ourselves that this mental and/or emotional pain will pass? I mean, it DID pass, just like a wave. Just like it has been for the past two years! Just like the sunburn or the headache goes away after a predictable amount of time. My mood swing, or whatever this is–simple ennui, feeling unaccomplished, it was raining?–passed, like it always does, within a few hours.

And, am I glad I didn’t drink? Of course.

Remember: this, too, shall pass.

(On that note, I have to run! I promise to post more, and soon.)

Fizzling out

11 Jan

7:58 pm

I just wanted to check in and thank everyone, firstly, for all the great comments to last week’s post on PAWS.

And, well, not to write a long post about it, but to say, I’m fizzling. Fizzled. It’s been a long past two weeks, and will be a much longer next few. This freelance writing stuff is the most labor-intensive thing I’ve done, mainly because of two things: 1. the world we live in doesn’t seem to value contextualized written pieces (unless they’re of course, shit like “Fifty Shades of…the Worst Writing in the World”), and 2. I have to juggle so many other balls in the air to keep my income coming in during the down-time/story pitch void (or, shall I say vortex, because often, that’s what it feels like). I spent all day today setting up an exchange between a yoga teacher and myself: I help her run her studio, she lets me take yoga for free. GREAT deal, and I’m pumped. I thought that this could be a paying gig, but it turned out to be better for both of us to just do an exchange. Still, I need to pay my bills, so I guess I’ll be looking at some other stuff in the “random job search” files next week.

I’m good, though. Aside for the sound of some dog barking incessantly from a distant hillside, nothing much is annoying, saddening, or triggering me. I feel relatively “up.” And, I know not to expect the “high high,” or the buzz, or the occasional “escape” into the ether that comes with a glass (bottle or two) of wine, but… Eh. I just feel “eh” a lot these days. I finally got my work mojo back, and it’s getting easy again to socialize and do business with strangers, but, it’s sort of…boring. I thought I’d get a MUCH bigger kick out of Accomplishing My Work Goals (in all caps, because it’s been SO freaking important to me to get to this point, being able to work AND be sober). Like, it became such a big deal to me, and now that I’ve come back and have realized that it’s SO not that big of a deal–everyone works–and that I’ve SO done this before; it feels too easy and not as rewarding as I would have hoped.

I guess I’m still looking for that buzz, whether it comes from an intellectual accomplishment or a glass (bottle or two) of wine. Maybe I’ve simply plateaued; maybe I might be here for a while; maybe I’m tempted to drink when my brain goes quiet because nothing is too bad anymore? I don’t dislike the plateau, and it sure beats the ditch where I was. It’s just…flat. And, I want to scream at myself, Uh, yeah, isn’t it NICE?! I want to yell, Isn’t it fan-fucking-tastic that there are no hills to climb–or cliffs to fall off of?!

Yes, it is nice, I quietly reply to that mean bitch (yes, DDG, you can be one mean bitch, just like your friend, Wolfie-boy). YES, it’s nice to be able to have productive day after day after day, with no unnecessary obstacles–like a pounding hangover or dreadful anxiety about what you might have said or done the night before–in the way. It’s SO nice. It’s SO good. Yet…I feel like I want to shake it up, come back to “myself,” mess up the rug a little.

Then I think, OK, I can mess up the rug a little, sure. But not until AFTER I get this, that, and the other done. And, those things are really important to me, so I can’t break my mental momentum just yet (ever). I can’t think about drinking AND get my shit done anymore. It’s like, I can’t circle back right now, it’s too distracting–and scary. I don’t want to lose time, to lose motivation, to lose the thread of my new life. It might happen if I drink; worse, it might happen even if I give myself the option to drink! I’m still too brain-less, in a way, to be able to live two lives, like I was doing for such a long time–how did I manage? Uh, I didn’t.

And, so it goes. I have come to appreciate the productivity in exchange for not drinking. Mostly, I have come to rely on this sense of focus, this recovered ability to actually make long-term plans and act on them. When you’re drinking, or even thinking about drinking, this seems to be at the least, compromised, and at the most, completely disabled.

Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a long post! See you tomorrow, when I finally reach 300 days! 🙂

“If I feel this way tomorrow, I’m going to drink”

20 Oct

10:29 am

And, I woke up feeling the same way I felt last night, and the night before, and the night before. Am I glad I wasn’t also hung over? YES. Will I drink tonight? I don’t know.

I feel like a lot of the time, I’m waiting for my “break.” I never get to escape, turn it off. It’s maddening. No amount of “wholesome” fun, like yoga, running, swimming, socializing sober, even JOB FUCKING SEARCHING ON A SATURDAY NIGHT (welcome to the reality of freelance writing) can fully mask the feeling that all these things are just placeholders for the real deal.

Yet, I have to ask myself, is drinking the real deal? Even as I whine about having no escape, no down time, and thinking that wine will fix this agitation, this irritated hole; I’m not at all sure that it WILL. And, I know from waking up this morning, and feeling an emotional hangover, it would have been SO much worse had I drunk (copious amounts, I’m sure) out of desperation last night and added a physical one on top of it.

So, I move ahead today. With my aching heart and burning, twisted stomach, forcing a smile and doing what needs to be done. Check, check, check. I know eventually it’ll lift, and at some point today, I’ll be doing things more out of “yay” and less out of “have to do this, here, I’ve done it.” I guess.

Strange days, indeed.

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