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Why we binge

29 Mar

1:16 pm

So, it’s been almost two whole weeks since my sober “birthday,” and while I felt (feel) proud and capable and free, the usual stuff continues to come up: worrying about my motivation levels crapping out on me and then, not being able to earn a living; worrying about the wedding in May, where I’m going to have to see my brother and his girlfriend; wanting to drink, surprisingly, out of boredom, out of a general sense of, OK, Now what? The usual stuff is still there, and while I feel much more balanced and able to deal with it, I still do want to drink. More like, I want to have ONE glass of red wine after a hot shower–like, a bubble bath for my insides. But then I remember the million reasons not to, and I let the fantasy go.

Maybe I simply need to set a new goal. Another year? Le sigh. I’ll say it: this “sobriety” thing is getting boring. In quotes because, sometimes, I just don’t think I NEED to be sober. I don’t think I “am an alcoholic.” I used to binge, but…that was out of hand, circumstances sucked, it was a bad time in my life, right? The problem is, I know in my heart that a sacrifice will have to be made on my part if I decide to start drinking again: if I start USING (yes, using) alcohol as reward, as fix, as “bubble bath for my insides,” eventually it will morph into needing it–or at least, feeling disappointed when I can’t have it. And, that’s a prison of the mind. One which I never want to be sentenced to again.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately–more clearly, indeed–about why we binge.

Most of us understand what we mean when we say, “a case of the fuck-it’s.” Fuck it. FUCK IT! I can’t hold back; I can’t hold on; I can’t hold up; I can’t repress, restrict, be good, be appropriate, care. I DON’T WANT TO.

I don’t want to…ANYMORE.

We drink because of this self-imposed “anymore.” We need a break from all that…holding in, holding on, holding above; out; away.

All this time, I’ve been telling myself the story of me: I can’t control myself, I am a binge eater, a binge drinker. I have no self-control.

What was really happening was the opposite. I was CONSTANTLY controlling myself, holding myself back, doing what I hated, not saying or doing or feeling what I believed was “too much,” or “too revealing.” I was repressing feelings, restricting emotions. I was, literally, not allowing myself to eat during the day–of course, I binged when it got too exhausting, or irritating, or I got just plain hungry. I was dabbling in that by the time I was in middle school; it ramped up to full-on bulimia by the time I went to college. I fixed that…only to have it come back in the form of binge drinking.

I think when we binge drink, we feel that particular remorse of “letting go” when we “really should have kept our drinking in order” more intensely than others. And that serves to feed the mentality that makes us want to binge in the first place–oh, hey, I’m flawed, I fucked up again, I can’t control myself, I suck. It seems that there are a lot of drinkers who never berate themselves for “over-drinking.” I think we feel such deep remorse not because we are overindulgent, but because our ideas of indulgence are off. Yes, we are “over-indulging.” However, why is that, in and of itself, such a terrible thing?

It’s a bad thing if you’re always monitoring yourself, and worrying about what others are thinking.

Why would loving someone–or being loved by someone–be a form of self-indulgence? Why would having sex with whomever I want be indulgent? Why would working a job that doesn’t make my brain hurt, eating enough food, walking instead of running–why is that considered by me to be indulgent? We restrict, and we repress–I was afraid to be expressive and therefore, I had to hold myself in all day. Of course it feels good to finally say, I’m just going to fucking DRINK now and not stop until I feel like it!

I think this is learned behavior that can, fortunately, be un-learned. It’s like, we act like children and throw tantrums. The problem is, there is no adult in the room, let alone a parent. Most of the time, we are very lucky when anyone helps us out of our drunken mess.

Back when I first got sober, my counselor hit that nail on the head during one of our sessions when she asked me, What do you like about your day? Uh, nothing. And, could it be that you are rebelling at night, when you drink? Uh, yeah. Maybe. Duh. Of course. And, going a little deeper, I saw that I am not an overindulgent, selfish slug, but someone who is the opposite in her daily life–to a fault, exhausting my resources trying to “carry the weight of the world” when no one asked me to, when no one wanted to be forced to feel grateful. I know that my behavior was learned, and dysfunctional. But, it wasn’t because I lacked self-control. What I lacked was self-respect, and, well, balance. And treats. And love.

During a food or drink binge, my most basic goals seem to be this: releasing (of emotion, of personality that I have been holding in); soothing (the irritability of having to “keep it sucked in all day”); erasing (zoning out, not having to pay attention, not having to “be on,” not having to work or parse information or create). I’ve said it before, but I used to drink so that I couldn’t work–write in my free time, basically. I was afraid of not only failing, but also, having to confront that maybe I didn’t want to write in my free time, that maybe I wasn’t good enough, that maybe I would have to accept that taking a break was necessary, not a waste of time.

So, why we binge? It’s complicated. And, the more we do binge, the more we compromise our innate capacity to put it into perspective. In other words, don’t get down on yourself, and, find other ways to narrow in on that much-needed releasing, self-soothing, and zoning out. Easier said than done.

Happy Saturday, all!

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Planning “me” time

26 Jan

1:08 pm

So, today, and yesterday, I have “me” time. Why? Because I planned out all my “non-me” time for this week. Sure, it’ll be a busy week, and sure, I won’t have anymore “me” time until next weekend; but like planning when and how I’m going to work, I’ve found that it is simply essential for me to both plan my off-hours and then take them. Like, I don’t have to ruin today with tomorrow, you know?

Since it’s all planned out, I can enjoy my time off, like really enjoy it. For me, these days, that usually involves a lot of walking, zoning, looking at the trees and water, and being with my dogs. Lately, I’ve been doing yoga classes, willingly, which is a nice step forward. Tiptoe’ing back into hobbies, like strumming my guitar, and listening to music. (And, again, I have to limit it, seeing how I’ve noticed my tendency to need to listen to ALL music, and know EVERYTHING about the historical and social relevance of new artists, and then, the sheer NUMBER of new sounds just makes my brain explode in a good way, but then, the fact that there is SO MUCH to catch up on makes it implode in a bad way–Jesus, someone get me out of my head!)

As I’ve said a gazillion times on this blog, a huge problem I used to have (still have) is taking time off. I mean, Turning It Off. Before, I was unable to turn it off–to stop working, to stop doing, to stop thinking about working or doing–so I drank. I drank to turn it off, I drank to be able to turn it off. You know? I mean, I drank because I had this anxiety around achievement and accomplishment. When I was faced with “down time,” either I didn’t want to be creative and work and do, or, I was afraid of trying and failing. Ack. So, I drank to avoid, but I also drank because I didn’t know how to just sit, without feeling all panicky and paranoid.

Now? Aside from sort of re-training myself to embrace down time, to accept balance into my life; I’ve also realized that I have to plan for it. Belle has a genius thing down, which is a day trip. Me? I just take time to actually plan my off-hours now, which means I plan my on-hours better (even more than I used to, I suppose). And, lately, with my mood improving and my energy coming back, I’ve been seeing improvements in balance–I CAN take time off, on the weekends or during the day, and then come back to work, recharged. Like, clearing out my brain, making way for more information, more concentration. I need this, especially in the kind of work I do.

Yesterday, I did some stuff I never do, and while I was like, Oh, this isn’t going to help, I’m going to feel more stressed when I do have to get back to work, I’m wasting time–I did it anyway. And I feel so much better today! Took a couple hours to sweep and mop the place; listened to music (old and new) for like, 6 or 7 hours; did some yoga; went for a 3-mile run (my runs need a lot of pain management); and then, I don’t know, just hung out with my pets and the night sky. See, before, when I was drinking, I COULD do the hanging-out-with-the-night-sky thing, but I never appreciated it. And I had to drink to keep the panicky feelings away. I don’t know, I just could not spend time without worrying about what I was spending it on, without wanting to run away, screaming in agony. Turns out, I wasn’t spending time, wine was spending me.

Anyway, this is a long-winded way of saying, time off is essential. And, even though I thought taking time off with drinking was worth it, it totally defeated the purpose. Now, my time off recharges and gives me balance…which helps me deal with my time on, and with the energy required to stay sober.

Happy Sunday. 300-somesuch days for me. I’m heading into a year in March, so that’s where my radar is focused now. I can’t believe it, and moreover, I can’t believe I’m LOOKING FORWARD to it! I have plans, and shit to do now. There are moments (stretches of hours?) when I want to drink for break, for reprieve, for job well done. But, I check myself (again) and remember that NO, this is just a reaction, a well-worn pattern. I don’t need to drink, I say, and then, actually, do I really want to? Won’t drinking as “break” lead to me not being able to work for the next few days due to being incapacitated by a hangover? I want to get my work done more than I want (or “need”) to drink right now. And, then, it all makes sense again; the craving subsides; and I simply (automatically) do my “go to’s”–talk to my boyfriend, turn on the TV, scrounge around the kitchen, take a shower, stretch, or go to bed.

And…tomorrow arrives. One more sober moon, one more sober sun. YES.

The problem with achievement

30 Aug

7:18 pm

I know I should (want to) be posting more often, but with titles like “Sigh” (yes, there’s a draft post in my list titled “Sigh”) I haven’t been able to hit send on any of my drafts, as it were.

Lately, I have to admit, I’m starting to feel like the only one who’s not really having fun at the (sober) party. I’ve also been thinking about drinking again. You know, when I get to 180 days. I’m not jones’ing for a drink, but I can’t help but wonder, Would I feel more like myself again if I inserted that habit back into my life? Would it help to orient me? More importantly, could it help boost my motivation back to some level of normalcy?

I don’t want to say that life sucks right now. For the most part, all is well, and I’m glad for all the things that I get to have by being sober: a clear head, no hangovers, never doing or saying anything destructive. OK, I got it. Good. Thank you.

What isn’t good is my lingering lack of…oomph. I just don’t feel excited about anything. Not the way I used to. The fire feels out, and I don’t know how to re-light it!

It’s hard to explain. It’s not that I don’t have work or hobbies, it’s just that I don’t really *feel* like doing any of them. The way I used to. I don’t feel any sense of achievement after doing almost everything, honestly. Yeah, yeah, it’s done. Can I go back to staring out at the water now? Maybe I don’t have the “huge” sense of accomplishment I once had because I was always hung over, and doing anything with a hangover seems like a Herculean feat. Back then, brushing my teeth felt like I climbed a mountain. And, getting through my work day? Well, I might as well have flown (with my own wings) to the moon. Now, everything I used to do just makes me feel sort of impatient and empty–is this it?

I realize that I used drinking to fill the void of not knowing how to spend my free time. I became reliant on using it when I’d feel that pull I just mentioned, feeling burnt out and “been there-done that.” However, as I was thinking about what to write for today’s post (which included a lot of procrastinating), I realized something: my addiction goes beyond the using of wine. My “core” addiction centers around not knowing how to spend my my time, period, without having something to achieve or accomplish. Which stems from an addiction to achievement.

Whenever I think and believe I haven’t accomplished much, I feel depressed. I feel sad. I feel frustrated. And, I want to drink. Wanted. Want. I want to make those feelings go away, to escape from those thoughts. I can’t just “be.” I need–and that’s the key word–to always be doing something “exciting” or “new.” I need–key word–to always be having something, or acquiring something, and in this scenario, that something is experience. I am, in essence, addicted to getting new things–knowledge, experiences, and maybe sometimes even things, but I’m much less addicted to consuming things as I am experiences. So, I drink to both ease the pain of not getting what I want, what I have come to need; and I drink to get an artificial version of that high.

This is both enlightening and saddening. While it’s good to know that wine is not the be-all, end-all of my addiction, it’s not so good to know that now, I honestly don’t know what’s healthy and what’s not. How much do I don’t do? If I was living my “old” life right now, I’d still be at work. I’d be just as unhappy there, “doing shit,” as I am now, “not doing shit.” And there, my friends, is the essence of the conundrum: there is no solution, at least no fast one, to this so-called problem. I know plenty of people who simply solve this and other existential conundrums with a drink–give it a rest, they’d say. Don’t think too hard on it. Others work harder, have more kids, get involved in others’ lives–you know, live life. My stumbling block is that these thoughts are in my head 98 percent of the time instead of the what I maybe erroneously believe is the “normal” 2 percent.

On that note, I’m not drowning and I still have (a little) hope that I’ll start to feel more excited about doing shit soon. I have found that just continuing to set daily goals and complete them helps. Ignoring the bad thoughts and feelings helps. Going for walks, doing yoga, and running or swimming helps. I have to smirk, in an ironic, God damn it, sort of way, when I think about drinking again. Even if I DID start drinking again, I know that it would not at all help me solve this problem. Other things might, like taking a trip, getting a different job, or moving (at least temporarily). But not drinking. I know too much now. DAMN IT.

Two more weeks until my 6-month mark. Woot woot. (insert sarcastic-wink emoticon here)

Brussels sprouts and Saturday night!

24 Aug

11:58 pm

I never used to like cooking for people. It made me feel really uncomfortable–almost more uncomfortable than eating in front of people. To me, cooking for someone was like me taking a megaphone and putting it next to the collective ear, blaring “I never eat so how could I know how to cook!” And it’s true: a lot of my bulimic tendencies can be traced back along a winding thread to core issues. I never felt safe expressing my feelings, and I somehow felt very strongly that eating was a form of self-expression. Cooking, too. If I was afraid to let you in on my feelings, of COURSE you couldn’t watch me eat, I used to think. And, if I couldn’t show love and affection, of COURSE I couldn’t cook for you either.

Before drinking, I had food issues. Not exactly of the eating kind, though I did binge (compulsively overeat, I think is the technical term that matches most closely what “afflicted” me from about 17 to 21 or so). It was more an emotional block surrounding food: when I ate in front of people (not when I binged, then I felt release), and when I cooked, I felt emotionally exposed. And, it was a horrible feeling.

When it comes to cooking for others, the first thing that usually comes to mind for many women is cooking for “our manz.” You know, you’re supposed to be this mother Earth (sex and food) goddess, who just so happens to know how to keep her manz by making his belly feel good and round and full. (Yeah, the concept made me want to throw up a little in my mouth, too–literally.) I never had a manz until later (my first boyfriend showed up when I was 22), and by that time, my cooking “skills” consisted of being able to feed myself semi-regularly. Which, as a diagnosed bulimic, wasn’t going so well.

I feared being judged. Of COURSE, I can’t do this right, my self-esteem issues willed me to believe. And, believe I did. It wasn’t like I was a klutz, I just had no practice at opening up and sharing how I felt. And, this somehow transmuted into me being unable to serve people. I was afraid of what they might think of not just my food, by of my expression–was I easy-going or uptight, warm or cold, abundant or sparing? I believed I was all the bad, an uptight, frigid, pared-down “nervous ninny” who had NO business trying to feed anyone, let alone a crowd.

Looking back, I feel sorry for how harshly I judged myself.

Anyway, it took me YEARS to be able to feel safe enough to begin cooking with a boyfriend, let alone serve him food and be able to simply enjoy him enjoying it–and not take it personally, like he was rejecting my entire emotional being if he didn’t like it. I HAVE cooked for a group, mostly with family members (they don’t count, in my book) and my current boyfriend. I made a pie once for an ex, and by the time I was done, I was so shitfaced I can’t remember much except that the dough was a lumpy, uncooked mess when I took it out of the oven. I don’t remember if I cooked it more or not, but I knew in my heart that he thought it was almost as shameful as the way I drank (to quell my nerves throughout the entire process). What an ass, for not telling me to quit–both drinking and making pies while drunk.

Fast forward to now, 159 days sober and having just spent the evening working on my latest creation: pureed brussels sprouts! I know, weird, right? My host mother in Paris (I studied abroad during my junior year in college) would make it all the time, so I think I just felt like going back. WAY back, as almost 20 years have passed since I was there.

It turned out well, I must say. What I truly love about cooking is the “art project” nature of it. It’s like my form of art project; and the best part is, it’s completely not intellectual and the product is kind of WAY better than like, a poem or a painting. I mean, you can fucking EAT IT! I love using the ingredients that I have, and guessing what I should substitute in for a missing one by aroma. I love smelling things, and I love imagining how two or three different ingredients could, combined, amount to an approximate texture or taste of something else.

What the FUCK does this have to do with being sober? Well, foremost, I wouldn’t be doing this on a Saturday night if I was out at the bar, drinkin’–the entire process was a three-part one, starting with steaming, followed by food processing and then blending. If I wanted to look on the dark side, I’d tell myself that I *should* be out, socializing instead of holing myself up, making fucking brussels sprouts puree. For God’s sake, it’s not even a main dish! (And, even worse, I just made that, nothing else.) Or, I *should* at least have attempted to subvert the old ways of thinking, invited a few peeps over, and we could’ve, you know, made dinner together–including but not necessarily limited to pureed brussels sprouts.

But, I’m NOT going to look on the dark side. All in due time, or, baby steps. I like cooking, so why not? And I’ve come a long way toward not only cooking, but being able to enjoy the process of sharing food. I also feel like cooking is an art project, something that I can do that doesn’t resemble thinking-based, improvement-oriented hobbies (reading, writing, playing an instrument, etc.)–good for someone like me.

And the best part? I never once thought that drinking would have made tonight better. If I had been drinking, I’d probably have ruined my taste buds, oversalted, eaten WAY too much and woken up the next morning wondering where the hell all my puree went (not to mention, brussels sprouts are not something one wants to binge on, believe me), and/or passed out before I finished. Instead, I’m enjoying the memory of sipping a few hot, savory spoonfuls as I type this blog post to my friends in the good, old “sobersphere.” Now, that’s something to toast my fourth (oops) Diet Coke-on-ice to!

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