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It’s crazy how things have changed

1 Jul

1:27 am

I am at home (like, home home) now, with my immediate family, and it’s crazy how *I* am the one, it seems, who is the most sober of all!  And by that I mean, irritated by how much other people are drinking, unwilling to really care about fixing them or holding onto what I cannot change, and um, SHOCKED at how late people eat and how LONG they drink into the night!?  What am I, old?

I watched them all pass out in their beds (or on chairs in the kitchen) while I went up to my room to do yoga and meditate.  (They’re kind of one in the same for me these days; and frankly, I have had such back problems that I cannot go a day without doing yoga and most definitely not more than two without working out…  But, it’s also because it’s just how I MUST DO if I am to remain centered, sober, calm and able to let everyone else’s issues and questions and concerns and gossip bounce off of me!)

So, yeah.  It is crazy how things have changed.  I’m also feeling much more willing, like I said, to accept people for who they are–and not try to change them, and not worry about me changing for them.  Like, someone grilled me about not having health insurance at the moment, and at first I felt bad, alarmed, like, oh, yeah, maybe I should get a catastrophic policy.  I had insurance, but let it lapse–and since then, well, I simply don’t worry about it.  This family member worries about stuff like that; yet, here I am, doing yoga and not drinking as preventive health, and here he is, drinking like a fish and then, downing a pot of coffee the next morning.

I am feeling super-weird about keeping this blog anonymous from my family anymore, but…I realized after talking about my sobriety last night with family members that it has to be the right moment for the reveal–and I have to be extremely ready to explain myself–and it’s not, and I’m not.  So, I keep putting it off…even though it’s starting to feel like a huge lie, a big withholding that equates to a lie.  Then again, I GET to get this; I deserve whatever choice I choose when it comes to my privacy and space, and method for getting sober and somewhat spiritually fit.  When the time comes, I’ll know it.

Till then, um, I LOVE who I have become, and I LOVE what the “right now” is for me; even IF there is extreme uncertainty (which I can deal with, and have dealt with for years as a freelance writer), well, I still have me, I have my spiritual center, I have my sobriety–which is frankly fucking invaluable.  I mean, priceless.  I mean, I’d take no job and no health insurance and a small rental in the middle of someplace that I’m not sure I like living (but am content in myself, so it really doesn’t matter where the “where” is anymore) ANY DAY over having things, and a big home, and “security” (which cannot exist without fear).  ANY DAY.

End of rant.  Good night, my sober friends.  Thank you for being here, with me, all these six years–you have no idea how liberating your understanding and support has been!

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You don’t have to be awesome, or win

25 May

4:16 pm

Yes, that’s right, folks!  At 43, soon to be 44 next month, I have at last made the realization that, nope, you don’t have to be awesome, and you don’t have to win.

You don’t have to do anything amazing, or challenging even; you don’t have to do it perfectly, or better than someone else; you don’t have to win any prizes.

Life goes on; life will go on, whether you publish a book, or open a business, or make millions as a lawyer or doctor.  NONE of that really matters; what matters, I say, is the fact that you got to fall in love with a dog, and walk him–he laughing into your tears with his tongue–until you stopped crying and starting laughing with him.  Our boy is gone now, but he lives on in my mind; and most days, that’s the only thing that feels like it matters to me.  And, I’m not sure if I am supposed to feel liberated by that or straight up SCARED to death that I am getting closer and closer to just not giving any fucks anymore!

There is so much consumerism here–buying and selling of things, of work, of jobs, of people, of relationships, of experiences–in America.  Maybe it really is everywhere, but, man, does there seem to be a desire here, almost a frenzied one, to acquire experiences.  I’m in on it, too, of course, and as frenzied as the next person–and enthusiastically so most days!  Yet, I try to remind myself of the existence of my higher power, the higher things, the lessening and loosening and lessons of sobriety.  Life is about the wind, the breath being taken away; the letting go.  Sometimes I do feel…estranged, I guess, in a “land of plenty” where there is never enough, and in some cases, feels like nothing.

I am trying to write these days, and all the usual bullshit comes up; somehow, though, I had this thought the other day that it just doesn’t matter–for real.  It’s a thought that I’ve tried believing before, and I got to a certain level and then you know, went back to being my normal competitive, hard-on-myself self.  Yet, the other day, I just thought, you know, you’re going on 44, you don’t have to win anymore.  You don’t have to get into a good school (did it, twice), be the best in that school (failed at that, but I’m sure I tried and tried), do this and that and the other (did it all, in search of “growth” and “challenge”); you don’t have to get another degree and even if you do, you don’t have to do well in the program!  You don’t have to DO anything or BE anyone except…yourself.  A person who will maybe be loved and maybe be forgotten; that is life, and that is what we fight for, and against, it seems, every single day.

At this, I drank.  I drank so much trying to be and do and achieve and win–and also, to NOT be and do and achieve and win.  Now, I don’t want to drink at this; I have accepted that this is how I feel sometimes, and what I think, and well, maybe the reality that we all have to face now and again in this lifetime.

It’s so hard not being hard on myself; it’s so hard for all of us, I assume, to not be hard on ourselves.  And, I would venture to say that, even IF someone tells you, Oh, DDG, don’t be so hard on yourself; in the back of their mind, they’re thinking and plotting and planning because there seems to be so very little example here (I’ll just call this world USA, Inc.) of actually choosing to not do, to not achieve, to not regard the world and your place in it as part of a game whose very existence hinges on your winning.

I’m not sure I know anyone who has completely said, fuck it, and decided to do away with the need for validation, by self or others.  I am not there yet, but there is a voice inside me that is screaming, quietly, DDG, it does not matter what you do, just be.  Just breathe.  You can try stuff, and do stuff; and trying it is good enough; doing it is good enough.  There are no prizes, and there is no winning, and when you die, your name and your achievements will not really be remembered as much as who you were, and what your presence meant to people.  So, just be.

Ahh–if ONLY I could practice this now-ness all the time, and not for about three minutes a day!

Social media–helpful or harmful?

16 Aug

8:46 am

Ahh, social media. Suffice to say, I think we all have love-hate relationships with it.

Lately, I have been quiet: head down, working, job searching, and really, simply trying to enjoy life outside of the computer screen once I actually manage to turn it off. The writing is on the wall (literally, since I’m a writer) that, while I like what I do–and it’s brought me a lot of pride and sense of accomplishment to have made my living for two years as a freelancer–I don’t earn enough money! I mean, I won’t bore you with the deets again, but I simply need to earn more. And, we’re not talking a little bit more; we’re talking, graduate student loans and supplemental income for my mom and buying a vineyard in Greece before I turn 50 more! I have always been driven, and responsible when it comes to earning my keep–I never received help from my parents. However, these past two years have put me nearly in the red (I am past red, let’s face it).

All that aside, I am doing well. Feeling strong. Recovering from my trip (where I acquired a mosquito-borne illness that among other things, I think, has been contributing to me feeling like the bug and not the windshield many days this month). In a weaker moment, I stood in front of the shelves of wine bottles at the grocery store for about 15 minutes one night, I was feeling that desperate to “fix” my depression.

BUT, my practically sole sane thought was the loudest of the bunch: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Like, what happens after that first bottle, practically speaking? Another bottle? Another $10? Another one? Again, another $10? It really is amazing to find myself thinking rationally about this, to be able to be MINDFUL enough to think past the craving and say, Self, this is not a solution; this IS THE PROBLEM.

I started blogging about getting sober over two years ago. I am on Facebook and will remain on Facebook for professional reasons. I have been able to dodge Twitter, mainly, but not at a cost to my professional life–it’s a cost I’m willing to pay, in exchange for my sanity. I don’t do Instagram, but I think it’d be more difficult to resist if I had a data plan on my phone (which I don’t, because I don’t earn enough money as a freelance writer, which I MIGHT, actually, if I was on Twitter–you see where this rabbit hole is going).

I’m not a stranger to social media, and all the benefits it offers. However, lately, social media has had me perplexed. Vexed. It feels inauthentic, and what’s more, empty. I think that participating in an echo chamber like Twitter, or Facebook, or yes, even these blogs–while amazingly helpful–can be part of the problem. This “thinking problem” that seems to be part of the reason we self-soothe with alcohol, or other substances. We are already so much in our heads–afflicted by ruminative, navel-gazing tendencies–is social media making this better, or worse? Even if it’s GOOD navel-gazing, is it ever really, for “people like us?” For people who need to Turn It Off, more or less? I understand there is a fine line between denial and mindfulness, and I’m having a hard time seeing it these days.

I guess this is why I’ve stayed off this blog for almost two weeks now? I just feel like…forever hashing it out–well, it’s just not working for me the way it used to. Maybe I need to collect myself and move onto a new project? We’ll see…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: after the initial contact–getting sober, seeing your faults, comparing and contrasting everything you do to drinking and then, to abstinence–it’s OK to simply let it go. It really is OK to let it go.

On that note, I’m going to sign off and do just that. 🙂

Words, words, words

4 May

11:44 am

Well, that was interesting. I just got off Facebook and this blog and blah blah blah. Words, words, words. If anyone understands the peril of relying too heavily on words to explain, define, or clarify, it’s me!

You know, lately I’ve been feeling uncomfortable with all “social” media. Without going into it too much, it triggers me. I guess I have residual anxiety, but even anticipating a response–any kind–to a Facebook post, or a blog post, or an email makes me feel…uneasy. I don’t need this, and neither does my sobriety.

I’ve also been really struggling with the navel-gazing aspect to sobriety and to writing about the process of getting sober. Maybe I’ve been doing it too long and simply need a break. Let it be known that all is well, and words are only words–they can’t even come close to expressing the infinity of every moment, let alone of a life lived. All I can say is, this is a new post, and a new day, and I might simply stop writing about my sobriety in favor of writing about other stuff on here–or not! We’ll see.

On that note, I’m going to the beach. Or for a walk. Either would be great, as long as it doesn’t involve my brain. 🙂

Remember: your drinking and your sobriety, as a story source once told me, is only a part of your life. It’s not the whole story, that’s for sure. YOU have control over how you construct your reality. Today, my reality will consist of sun, sand, a very quieted mind, laundry, cleaning, quieting the mind again, job searching (ugh!), volunteer searching (yay!), and enjoying being outside myself. Maybe more walking, a little Bebel Gilberto, and some massive cheesy pasta dish later when the coqui frogs start making noise and let me know (again) that all IS really as it should be and I can relax into that notion. (I must admit, animals seem to make up my “higher power” to a large extent: doves, frogs, crickets, and my dogs, to name a few.)

Happy Sunday, all. Small part of a big, big, big reality, is my mantra today. And, let it go, let it go, let it go. 🙂

HALT–Hungry, Angry, Lack of control, Tired

12 Feb

8:09 pm

HALT. Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. I am hearing that phrase ringing truer and truer the longer I maintain my sobriety. For me, that’d be, Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lack of control, or Tired.

My biggest triggers are indeed hunger and anger–both make me feel like I might want to drink. However, even bigger ones are feeling like I don’t have control and feeling fatigued (sick, or ill, comes in here, too, and maybe that should be put into “lack of control”). I realized this today, as I was interpreting my life as being super-out of my control. A few tears welled up in my eyes as I checked off all the shit that I simply DO NOT have control over:

work
the energy to attain said paycheck
my constant back pain
my ongoing sleep disturbances/insomnia
my water quality (we have cistern water)
my REACTIONS to all this lack of control
etc. (this would include, for example, my greying hair–haha)

In writing this, I realize now that I do, in fact, have control–or the ability to control–all these things! I just have to consider different options.

Obviously, I don’t have control of the world, of the way things happen. BUT, I realized today that there are some things that I NEED control over, to a certain extent, in order to remain sober, basically. And, that what I CAN do is construct a life that feels safe, in that certain elements are there/controlled for.

When it comes to work, I know I need to keep it challenging, but I’ve learned to take breaks, turn it off when need be (well, learning how not to exhaust myself before it’s too late and I hear wolfie breathing down my neck), and set only attainable goals. Once upon a time, I used to believe that “Make your goals unattainable” was a perfect motto to live by. Now? No. Just, no. Not if you’re someone like me, who goes crazy trying. I mean, of course, we all have to work, and we might not like that; but, I can choose to let’s say, write freelance instead of going into an offices every day and doing marketing copy. I can control for the amount I earn, and the amount of time I put in (unless, of course, I’m a new freelance writer, which I am!). Plus, for me, going into an offices adds a dimension of “pain” that is hard for my younger self–and sacral spine–to imagine.

So, OK, I have control over my choice of work. And a relative degree of control over the amount of incidental pain I have to endure every day. Yet…with that tradeoff comes the uncertainty of the freelance paycheck–will I or won’t I either have enough work or have enough energy to find enough work? That, I’d say, is my number one item in the “I feel like I have no control” column. Right under this is my reaction to this kind of stress, which is negative. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have control over my reactions, and I react, and I feel angry and frustrated–just like I did when I was drinking, and man, it is the exact same feeling and it makes me want to drink. Of course, I calm myself down better now, and talk myself off the edge fairly efficiently, but, I wish I didn’t let myself get there in the first place.

Sometimes a lack of initiative on my part is really just a lack of stamina. I can’t go as hard as I used to; or, I simply don’t want to. Or, I don’t have wine to fuel me. I get tired faster, and what with being so PAWS-y for so long, I am just now recovering my powers of concentration. The past month this has been waning, and it worries me. Being tired–or sick, I guess–hasn’t helped, and that just makes me angry. Very mature, I know.

So, I don’t know what this post is about except, if you need more control, take it. There are some things that need to be there, and that are OK to hold an iron fist above–especially if the stress of not having that control is going to make you wander aimlessly back to the wine aisle in the grocery store. If you need a break, take it. It’s not worth drinking over. If you get extra hungry, or extra tired, or extra angry–hello, PMS!–sleep on it. Manage it, but let some things slide (it’s OK to binge on ice cream for dinner, says Dr. Drunky Drunk Girl; it’s more than OK to sleep for 10 hours if you have the time). It’s not worth drinking over. If you feel like you have no control, maybe you just don’t have enough control? Getting sober is hard and takes a lot of focus and concentration–you are basically re-wiring your brain–you need some things to be taken care of, and not flying around, willy nilly, you know? Maybe you need to construct a tighter household, so to speak; pull some things off the burners; cut the last 14 items off your to-do list–they probably aren’t that important anyway.

Sometimes still, it’s hard to figure out if I’m tired for real, or if I’m burnt out (I see my energy to pitch stories coming in daily, weekly, and monthly waves), or if I’m just being PAWS-y and need a break because my sober brain isn’t ready yet for the big leagues. It’s hard to figure out how, exactly, to react differently, and to gain more control over my reactions. But, I know if I try to change the course of my reactions, even when it feels like I’ve gone too far in, I can do it.

What helped me today to curb my emotional reaction (to the stress of the pressures of freelance, of feeling nostalgic for my grad school years as I contemplate my hourly wage at my new job)? Shutting myself in the office for the first hour or so, and then, taking a little walk later morning. And then, remembering that I am a new me, and I am no longer the girl who reacts violently and carries it with her to the end of the day and the end of three wine bottles. I am a new me, and I do things differently. And, this is how I do it now. And then, realizing that right then and there, I am re-learning how to do things, and how to do things better than I used to. I am practicing this and I am turning the tables. It’s weird, and painful, but good.

Sometimes I feel like a child. With navel-gazing powers that rival a superhero’s. Yes, I’m ready for a change of scenery!

Now would be a good time to drink…

22 Nov

7:33 pm

Now would be the time to drink, if there is one. I just finished three stories and well, two months’ income.

I’ve already blogged about why “now” would not, actually, be a good time to drink: it’s November 22nd, and I still have to find December’s income. I still have NO idea where that money is coming from yet–could be in the form of an assigned story, could be in the form of a story or two that I have yet to pitch. Ugh. Freelancing. And, then, there’s January, and February, and March’s income. Sometimes, I can’t imagine ever feeling like I deserve to rest, a break, a reward. Do I?

I did it, though. I picked myself up this summer, worked my arse off to grind this business to a start, and actually did it. I know being sober has everything to do with it. This has been months, years in the making. And I’ve worked really hard to get here–not just to have those handful of stories, whatever. I’ve worked hard the way you all know that this revising-your-entire-existence-on-planet-Earth is hard when you get sober.

Sigh. I still want to drink tonight, though. As a reward. As a break. It’s what I always did. It’s what I’ve always done after filing hefty stories. I’ve EARNED this, haven’t I? I’ve been planning it for months, in a way: once I get to “this” point along the way in the freelance thing, then I can drink.

I told my boyfriend I was going to drink a “couple” of glasses of wine tonight, but in my heart, I know I’m lying. For all intents and purposes, I’m not in the mood to drink.

But I still “want” to. So, what do I do? I go and grab my wine glass, fill it to the top (cuz that’s how I roll; 6-ounce “glass,” my ass) with some homemade sorrel tea, and whoa, what a surprise! Sorrel’s got a tinge of an aftertaste, and it feels/tastes very much like wine. I put ginger (along with cloves and cinnamon) in this iced tea, so it sort of burns on the way down, and once there, simmers in my belly. And, by golly, it feels like I’m drinking wine! And, no shit, I “feel” the symptoms of being drunk.

When I got drunk, I’d feel the good feelings–happy, excited, caution-to-the-wind, big ideas–and I’d feel the bad–dizzy, brain coming undone, spaced out, tired, bloated, stomach burning. Sometimes the bad would totally outweigh the good, especially toward the end when the buzz didn’t even show up. Maybe it’s my association of these feelings, similar to the ones I’m getting from the tea, with being drunk that’s making me actually feel drunk?

In any case, it just reminds me of how NOT WORTH IT it is. I just feel down, tired, spaced out, and my stomach is burning. I have that sick, wine aftertaste in the back of my throat, and I’m going to keep taking swallows of that sick, tart wine and make that aftertaste worse. Stomach’ll keep burning, throat will reflexively gag, but I’ll keep downing that wine–every sip taking me further and further outside of my head. Pretty soon, I’ll be tipsy, which may or may not involve feeling buzzed; my head will start to hurt; I’ll start to feel really dizzy; I’ll lose sense of my chain of thoughts; and I’ll feel confused, like my brain is literally coming unglued, as if big chunks of neurons are coming unhinged from one another, cell by cell.

And then, I’ll be like, oh, a bottle is gone?, and I feel nothing but numb. Not better, just numb. And sick. And drunk. And…now $10 is gone, the night is spent, and I have nothing to show for it except…a horrible day tomorrow of being hung over, of not being able to work or do anything I had planned. Ugh. It just adds up to zero.

So, yeah. While I “want” to drink, I don’t. And that confuses me, because I feel both at once. I guess I’ll just refill my wine glass with more sorrel tea and pretend I’m drunk. Or, maybe I’ll go to the bar (my neighbors are leading a pub crawl at the bar up the road) and watch all the drunken people perform their stupid human tricks?

No good can come. No good can come. I KNOW this, but… I feel left out.

You know, I used to hate those cautious people, the ones who were like, “Oh, I better stop, I’ve already had two.” FUCK YOU. I was so impulsive when it came to wine, so impulsive and dangerous in my choices, my behavior. Now, I’m turning (turned) into one of those cautious people I hated! Maybe I always was/am too cautious to allow my inner zen to be disturbed–maybe that’s the real me, and I’m just having to get used to her being around again.

And, now it’s 7:50 and the night is too old for me to start drinking now. Plus, I wasn’t kidding, I think I’m really heading over to the bar where my boyfriend works to make fun of (feel glad it’s not me) the drunkards.

200 days plus 7 weeks = almost 250 days! 50 more until day 300, and then…?

Update at 10:51 pm: so, I went to the bar, saw some people, drank some pineapple and club soda, and ate some Roquefort cheese (ugh, not only cheese, but FRENCH cheese; all I could think was, This would go so much better with some French wine). And, well, I still want to drink. I still want that “break.” I still feel left out, and friend-less, in a way. I miss drinking to socialize, I really do. Oh, well.

Happiness is a choice

24 Sep

10:47 am

Good morning. Or, is it?

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

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

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

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

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