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Five years…and counting

15 Jun

3:37 pm

Five years ago yesterday, I got sober.  And, I started this blog.  And, my, I’ve come damn far from this first post (this is how I started the post):

I woke up today hung over.  And it’s going on oh, about 48 hours or so since I had my “last” drink and I still feel like ass.  My belly is swollen and my liver hurts, which, this morning makes it hard to fit into my interview clothes.  My pants are too tight and my underwire bra is pressed so tightly against my aching liver that it makes me cry.  So now I am crying and I’ve got less than 10 minutes to pull it together and all I can think is, Fuck, I wish to Jesus on the Cross that I hadn’t poured out the last third of that “last” bottle of red that I had stored in the fridge two nights ago when I binge drank.

And, five years later, my life has changed drastically.  I can’t even begin to write about how different my life is–how different *I* am–it’s that different.  And, I’ve written five years of blog posts covering all that awesome progress!  Suffice it to say, I am never hungover, I have paid off my student loan debt, I have gotten engaged, I have become a “successful” freelance journalist; I have gone on trips, volunteered abroad, become a barista.  All that, however, is the cosmetic byproduct of a deep, unwavering peace.

Yes, I feel negative emotions, and get confused about what direction to go in; but beyond and untouched by all that surface stuff is this, well, peace.  The big stuff stays in place.  I can think and plan and act coherently; I continue to work steadfastly toward my goals, even if I can only intuit what they might be in the long-term.  I sometimes focus on the negative (especially lately), but beneath that external chatter is a universe-sized body of water called *possibility*–into which I can deep dive because I am sober.  Only because and precisely because I am sober.  I can even see a life–a world, actually–beyond me, and my past, and my sobriety; and boy, is it endless with possibility.

Exhale, is my mantra these days.

All that being said, I haven’t been blogging much, and I haven’t been feeling that excited by my sobriety these days.  I’ve been re-reading my posts from years ago, and I’m left wondering, where have I gone?  Where has that girl gone?  That getting sober girl who was on freaking FIRE to be getting sober?  I guess it’s simply that we all grow, change, evolve, move on.  And, I can accept that, and I do.  It’s just…  I want some of that fire, and I want to know why it’s no longer infusing me!

Not to say that life isn’t full, and complicated, and grand–because and only because I  got sober, and wrote this blog, and made a new way of living for myself.  Life has become full, almost always a race to the finish.  My partner and I are in a transitional phase, meaning, we want to move but we’re just not sure where–where to go, what will it lead to, how we’ll fare in a new place and a different life.  We’ve been talking about it for years; I think we’re at the point that if we don’t make a change soon, we’re going to implode.  Pull the trigger, I say!

I’m tired of waiting, of wanting another life!  Yet, I also want to know what, exactly, I’m looking for, and why, exactly, this amazing life I’ve created here seems no longer enough.  Maybe I’ve just outgrown it?  Been there, done that.  I mean, it’s possible!  I’ve been living here for five years now.  While I want to continue to write about sobriety–there’s so much to mine–most of the time I just want to forge ahead on my work, and keep getting shit done.  And I do.  I just wonder where all the excitement has gone.

Frankly, I think it might be related to taking the pill.  I have never taken meds, and since I’ve been on these, I just feel…flat.  I feel nothing.  To the point where, I feel no “looking forward to” feeling, no “I can’t wait to do this” feeling.  I don’t dream–like, literally, I have no dreams.  It’s like, I can’t “see” my emotions, I can’t “see” my desire; it’s like, that part of my brain is off.  I can’t see it; it’s dark in there.  It makes it easy, I guess, to live on a day-to-day basis, because I have ZERO emotional ups and downs.  Except, the only feeling I seem to have, that I can touch, taste, smell; is anger.  And, that sucks.

Exhale.  Maybe all this angst is circumstantial:  maybe my corporate job has driven me insane because it feels SO irrelevant to me now, having been a journalist, having done freelance writing.  I wouldn’t mind leaving the corporate work for good, and becoming a barista full-time again, you know?  I can’t, though; after all this time, at 43 years old, I’m finally gaining some ground, financially.  I can’t let this go.

I don’t know what the next step is, which is a good thing, in a way.  Why?  Because ANY next step is the right next step!  So, I have decided to take a few weeks off and travel to a country I’ve never been, on a volunteer project I’ve never been a part of, alone.  I am hoping it’ll jump-start me–take me out of myself, and my situation; help me to figure out what’s going on.  Or, what the next steps might be.  I leave next week and come back after the holiday in July.

My life is awesome, I have to say; which is why all this internal angst is confusing.  How can I intellectually see how good I have it while also feel so…frustrated?  In any case, I am sober, and that is 99% of my life, and that 99% is simply awesome.  I would not trade the past five years of learning, and even this period of struggle, for anything.  I wouldn’t trade it for the brother who has written me off, the friends I no longer feel connected to, the big city career that I probably won’t (and don’t want to) regain.  I feel so blessed to have made it out alive!  I feel so blessed to have been given the gift of having to work on  myself, of being forced to change and grow and evolve.

Five years…and counting.  I can’t wait to see what the next five will bring.

Milestones…and fatigue

15 Jun

11:21 am

Wow, I can’t believe how fast time is flying. Which, I suppose, was my goal: keep my mind dial on “future focus” so that I don’t dwell on The Girlfriend, or, so I don’t give her the time (my life) that she doesn’t deserve. And, now that that’s behind me, the future is here, and I have a lot more important things to think about.

Aside from stressing on how I’m going to earn money, though, life has been pretty fantastic–things are unfolding. Moving right along, as a friend recently commented. And, you know, honestly, it’s been so few and far between, the number of times through all of this that I’ve thought, This would be better with a glass of wine. The longer we go in our period of sobriety, it just happens, this letting go of the Myth of Alcohol–we don’t need it.

To summarize the past month or so, many a milestone has come and gone and I’ve just been trying to keep up (on the outside world, let alone on my blog): my brother’s wedding, the “confrontation,” which turned out to be not much of one, with The Girlfriend; our 2-week trip; planning my “voluntouring” vacation (for which I leave this Thursday); my 40th birthday this week (for which I had a surprise party thrown by my brother’s new husband, during their wedding weekend no doubt!); a beach party for my birthday yesterday (for which my boyfriend and I made a bunch of pretty tasty eats); and in between all that, my 450 day-milestone on June 11th and my 2-years-blogging anniversary on June 14th (I started this blog two years ago on June 14th, and have been sober–more or less–ever since).

Throw in a flu last week and, unfortunately, a UTI (ladies, you know the urgency of getting antibiotics started, especially when you have to wait through the weekend for a pharmacy to open up)–well, this girl is feeling like she’s on the inside of a tornado!

Alas, I think that’s how I planned it, y’all. Far, far better to be busy and occupied than to be dwelling, and drinking.

On that note, I have to run. Sorry I’ve been so MIA. I have the feeling that things might get even crazier in the next few weeks, but I will definitely try to keep you up to date with more frequent posts. (Come to think of it, the next one is going to be on unmet needs and a sense of purpose as antidotes to addictive behavior–it’s been on my mind lately.)

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!

Epilogue; prologue–ONE YEAR SOBER!

19 Mar

11:44 am

Some of you were like, Hey, how come you saved the best for last? Well, of course, I wasn’t going to gloss over my ONE YEAR SOBER “BIRTHDAY” today!

First of all, WOWIE, thank you ALL for your awesome, supportive comments. Second, I must clarify: I have two brothers; the one with the girlfriend is NOT the same as the one who is getting married in May. So, I am not the photog at her wedding…

Anyway, the epilogue to yesterday’s “drama in my club” is this:

When midnight came, I admit, I was still exorcising my anger and bitterness by journaling. I did actually get to some good points–great points–about how I feel now and what I get from being sober. I re-read an entry I wrote last year, on this very day, when I was sitting on my couch, passed-out-ish, throwing up onto the towel strategically placed (by my boyfriend) on my chest, before stumbling into bed in a blackout. That day last March, I had nearly six months of continuous sobriety. I have not drunk since then–a full, continuous year. It took me almost two years of trying, but I got here. (Mind you, and this is important, I started trying to control my drinking all the way back in, oh, 2004! I was blacking out then, things got really bad in grad school–I even tried AA in 2006–and I began consciously trying to go for days in a row without drinking starting in 2007–I made it 30 days once, back in the summer of 2008, but more often, I’d only go for 3 to 5 days before going back to my bottle.)

What triggered me?, I wondered, which is why I went back to re-read. Well, it was stuff that would probably not trigger me today, stuff that would not carry as much emotional weight: feeling isolated, feeling attacked for being a “hermit,” which I admit I had become (like, hey, does ANYONE think outside their own asses these days; my landlady literally physically jumped me when I got home that day, scolding me about how I ignore her and I can’t get away this time–needless to say, that woman has CODA issues, and I have rightfully decided to keep my distance), feeling stressed (I was running every day, almost 6 miles one day, 3 miles the next–too much). I had to baby myself then, which makes sense–in early sobriety, everything hurts your raw nerves; nothing makes sense. While my mind is still a buzz of thoughts, back then, everything triggered me to anxious and obsessive thinking.

But, we get through this shit, our minds calm down, and the obsession to drink leaves. Not entirely, but there was this shift that happened for me around 15 or 16 months (I started my journey, a first attempt at getting sober, in June 2012, so this was August of last summer), where I just stopped wanting to drink around every turn. Stopped automatically always assuming/believing that drinking equals relief, escape, fun. Now? Well, that has died down even more, and I see that it’s a real improvement; the thinking goes away. You learn how to live without the reward of alcohol. In short, your mind bounces back. And from what I’m seeing now, your mind not only bounces back, but it keeps going higher and higher!

The epilogue to yesterday’s message from the one brother’s girlfriend is this:

I DID call him, and we DID talk. I was nervous, and upset, but I got through it. And, it left me feeling VERY ambivalent. He basically insinuated I was lying about any message having been sent–she denied it (she probably forgot because she was blacked out when she sent it), and he believed/defended her–which pissed me off to no end. We are NOT that kind of family; there has never been this kind of “he said/she said” drama. That comes from her. Anyway, it bummed me out, and I expressed my frustration, that I cannot do more than I’ve done. And, he continued to keep his list, you know, the one with all the reasons on it to hate me, to hold up his (her?) grudge. And I was like, Dude, I’m not saying you can’t hate me, what I’m saying is, your girlfriend can’t bully me. I get to choose that. Period. (Plus, no one needs a reason to hate someone; hate is irrational, and no matter how many lists you make, hate is a choice, not a must, or a rationalized “to do.”)

On the one hand, he was like, I don’t know why it took you so long to call; on the other, he was like, Well, why do you have to go dredging up the past? I was confused, obviously, mostly at his utter lack of self-observation–you do realize, I wanted to say, that you’re saying two different and opposite things and that both allow you to maintain your grudge, no matter what I say or do, right? He said something about, Well, there’s nothing we can do then. And I was like, YES, brother, there IS something we can do here, and it’s what we do, as humans: we can work together toward forgiving one another, and we can work together toward reconciliation. (I actually said that; I felt proud!)

Honestly, I realize the elephant in the room is his toxic, 15-year-old relationship with cray-cray. And, I see how messed up she is, and how IF he wants to change the situation, he’s going to have to confront her, call her out on her act, and stand up for himself. One, he’s never done that in 15 years; and two, I assume that he knows that IF he does that, he’s going to unleash her beast (she’s threatened to kill herself if he leaves her; which, in my opinion, is part of her act, but which I don’t think my brother is so sure).

GAH. Talk about Relationships 101. And, I realize now that it’s none of my business anymore; I don’t need and never did need to keep this shit live. That’s my problem, wanting and expecting people to align with how I see the world, to forgive and/or like me. Lesson learned: What other people think of me is none of my business; and let it go, let it go, let it go.

However, I was proud of myself! Once I got over my fear and pounding heart, I was pretty good at explaining myself. I know I did wrong, and MY crazy while blacked out can put off anyone for good. But, what more can I do? If they want to continue to buttress their grudge just to hide from reality, well, at least I don’t have to live in that place. I did send him the email she sent, and then we “chatted” about life, and then I hung up. And then, I called my other brother–we’re much closer–and he basically talked me down for the next hour and a half. All in all, it was cathartic, if not healing. I’m still not looking forward to the wedding, but at least now I KNOW I can stand up for myself–I won’t fall down and die.

The prologue is this:

THIS is just the beginning, this sober thing here. I feel like now, (my) sobriety is taking on a shape of its own, starting to live outside myself, direct me when I’m lost, prop me up when I’m weak and scared. I know it’s me, doing this, but it’s somehow more than me. Maybe it’s simply an accumulation of this constancy of self–I can rely on myself. I can rely not only on remaining sober but also on…this Truth inside to guide me, to steer me, to fill me up, to make me righteous when I need to be, to help me–allow me–to make the right choices, and not just the superficial ones that I “should” make.

It’s growing, and building, and I’m becoming more and more sure of myself, of this path as being the right one, of sobriety as being the right choice, and not just the good choice. It’s right because it’s allowed me so much growth this year, emotional and professional. It’s right because it helps me to really see my relationships in action, and to identify problems on my end. It’s right because, I don’t know, I’ve talked about this nebulous idea before, but protecting The Body is so much bigger than just not trashing my own temple. It’s about this connection to heaven, as it were, which is here on Earth–the body, this body that I’m in, this mind and body, is a holy ground. It is where I stand; it is the only place I can be, which means, feel safe, be connected to…the Truth. A calm. Something that says, it will all be OK. There is nothing too big or scary; nothing is big or scary, actually. It’s all good, baby.

Even more, I don’t have to rely on anything outside myself to connect to this truth anymore; it is right here, and it is growing. Sure, I want to drink sometimes, but I know I can do well without. And this truth, it gets bigger now with every day sober. I can’t tell you what a strange thing this is to say, because up until about a few weeks ago, I was still struggling with Not Drinking. Sobriety is about me not drinking, big deal, no one cares, it’s just alcohol anyway. Somehow, that has morphed. Maybe it’s as simple as momentum: my sober car is rolling, still picking up speed, and I’m finally able to look back and see just how far it’s come!

So, one year is a prologue, it seems. The best is yet to come. Sounds SO preachy and AA-y, but…it’s real. I think it helps to confront your shit–I am learning to do that as it happens, and not wait (um, two years). But hey, the things I’ve learned and what’s helped me become more empathetic toward myself and others is this: we all make mistakes in our lives, but we all evolve (if we try). And strangely, as you’re fighting to evolve, sometimes it’s YOU who has to help someone else learn this about themselves. Like, to tell them, You can change, you can evolve, you are bigger than you know.

Another one is, I forgive you. I mean, getting sober has taught me that I must (not should) be prepping to forgive all the time, because I DO want to be that person who is READY to forgive when someone who’s hurt me comes with a sincere apology. Forgiveness is hard, and you really do have to be prepared to offer it to someone; I don’t want to not be able to give that. People deserve it. I deserve it. So, in addition to not being hung over all the time, I’ve been able to learn the value of cultivating forgiveness in myself–for others’ health, for my own. DEEP THOUGHTS, people. 😉

Tonight is the wine bar event–well, we’re gathering at a wine bar/resto. On the one hand, it’s just another day sober. On the other, I feel better and more hopeful and less burdened than I have ever felt. And, I feel like I am more confident and settled–this isn’t going to go away with a mood swing because this is real, I made this. I built this. And, I think the struggle is what makes it worthwhile, because without that constant fighting against the wolfie in your head, there would be no…reference point. The whole process of building your new statue–becoming sober–is what helps it stick.

Thank you, friends. I would NEVER have gotten this far without your support here. Thank you from the bottom of my heart–your comments were touching and some brought tears to my eyes.

Now, another 90 days? Another 100-day challenge? Onward for this “user bitch cunt!” (I hate to tell her, but it’s no secret I can be a cunt; and, I still love me. So, GOTCHA, bitch! Of course, I’m not above resentment yet, my friends. LOL)

(Btw, I think my present to myself for a year sober might be a trip back to Mexico–I loved Mexico City when I went a few years ago, so…I don’t know why, but it sounds like a good idea!)

You should get out more

13 Oct

3:46 pm

Uh huh. Yup. I know, right?

I’ve learned not to take these comments from others to heart, to learn what I can from them, and well, to respect my process. Which has been to slowly but surely–as head and heart dictate–come out when I’m ready. When I’m wanting to. When I’m getting my mojo back, as Paul at Message in a Bottle so aptly described what seems to be happening to me lately.

Yesterday, October 12th, was the anniversary of something really horrible happening after a night out drinking (4 years ago) and something really amazing happening, which was that 1 year ago yesterday, I’ve gone for one whole year sober minus one day. Technically, I’ve got…208 days. Which is cause for celebration, methinks!

While I felt mostly pissed off and cheated and wanting to drink last night (yup, that shit still comes around and usually takes me off guard by how gale force it is!), I went to brunch today. I felt like it. I invited my neighbors, and we had some great conversation. (They were drunk, which made it easier for them to talk to me, I know. It did me some good: drunk people are VERY forthcoming, and they’re “good people to know” when it comes to getting into the somewhat closed circles here.)

Anyhoo, I’ve been feeling like “it” more and more, and that includes talking to people and not feeling exhausted after it’s over. LOL

I was reading a book the other night on happiness, and how to be happier. The author says that cutting out the things that you don’t need to do, or that suck time, is key. When I first got sober, I could only focus on not drinking, and I cut out a lot of things. I cut out my old job. I cut out making new friends. I cut out “frivolous socializing.” I cut out AA–it was too emotionally draining and it served to piss me off more often than not. I cut out a lot of things, I had to. That was my process, and it’s worked for me. I knew I had to figure out how to stop drinking and stay stopped on my own time. I had to learn how to derive the desire and motivation to not drink, and not be able to refer to a list of equations, as it were.

One of the most important things for me in staying sober has been to be honest with myself, not necessarily anyone or everyone else. Just because you’re not venting to the world, and admitting how horrible you feel to your 50 closest friends doesn’t mean you’re not working on it. Just because you put dealing with painful memories or emotions on the back burner doesn’t mean you won’t come back to them, and that they won’t get worked out.

I have to say, I feel a thousand pounds lighter than I did last year on October 12th. My mojo is coming back–I want to work, and I want to be more social again. My bigger-picture thinking skills are coming back; like, I can take in a lot more information and put it into place, without having it affect me, or my feelings, or my memories to the point where the pot gets too stirred and I feel overwhelmed. 95 percent of me is glad; the other 5 percent is like, Fuck you, man. I had to become a navel-gazing hermit for a year to want to want again?

Anyway, like I said, I was in a bad mood last night. But, I woke up this morning and made the choice to not carry it into the next day. I call it selective memory–and not the kind that happens when you black out! I also got some rejections to my story pitches. But, I made the choice to forget about it and move on–there are a hundred reasons as to why, none of which involve me, personally, or my talent, ability, and motivation to do a good story.

Slowly but surely, I’m coming ’round. The things I didn’t want to talk about last year, I’ve confronted. I’ve dealt with past trauma and mended my ways, so to speak. Some of the things I cut out last year, I’m adding back in. Mostly, things are righting themselves. Just the act of stopping drinking fixes a lot of problems that you don’t necessarily want or need to face all at once, head-on, right when you get sober. Some of the most painful of the ruminating is caused by the drinking; some of it, in the case with depression or anxiety, is not. It’s up to you, and your honesty with yourself, to figure it out. And, figure it out you will. Just not all at once.

Looking back, this has been a great year. I wish some things would’ve happened sooner (as in, socializing leads to networking leads to a job leads to a savings account), but they didn’t. Oh, well, that’s been my process. Drive your own drive, as one of my friends likes to say.

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.

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!

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